Brandon Kravitz was manning the front lines and the betting lines and the telephone lines that mythical November of 2021. With sports betting legal in Florida through a compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state, the Hard Rock Digital app had winked to life and offered legal wagers from Pensacola to Key West.
Kravitz, the host of “In the Zone” at 96.9 FM The Game in Orlando, was talking sports, dispensing betting tutorials, and, weirdly, serving as a Hard Rock customer service rep by proxy.
The ride ended after just more than a month when a series of lawsuits shut sports betting in Florida down. But with a US District Court of Appeals judge reinstating the compact a few weeks ago, Kravitz and his listeners are eagerly awaiting the frenzy to begin anew. New legal challenges could slow or halt all that, but it makes for a good conversation.
Gaming Today chatted with Kravitz about those heady times and what could lay ahead.
What’s the excitement level for legal sports betting in Orlando?
BRANDON KRAVITZ: People are pretty jazzed up about it. I think just getting that little taste of the Hard Rock Sportsbook app a couple of years ago. Sports betting is something that I’ve always thought had a really strong place. And sports talk radio, even if you don’t bet, it’s such an easy way to integrate sports talk and to kind of use that as a launch point into a conversation, put things into context.
When that first popped up, I noticed that listeners in droves became more interested in that conversation and started dabbling in it themselves. The reality is, if you want to bet on sports in the state of Florida, you can figure out ways to do it. But I think just the legality of it made a lot of people that were sort of on the fence feel a lot more comfortable. And so I’ve just noticed that there’s a lot of people sitting on pins and needles waiting for that to return so that they can dive back into it. But of course, it’s going to be a more complicated process than that.
What percentage of Florida bettors do you think were already betting offshore?
BRANDON KRAVITZ: I would be totally guessing, but if I had to put a percentage on it, I would say 75% of the people that I heard from were probably betting already. And then there’s 25% that was venturing into it for the first time. And that’s where I think fantasy football and apps like Underdog and daily fantasy with FanDuel or DraftKings … I mean, that’s sort of, for lack of a better term, like a, like a gateway into sports.
I think that there is already some comfortability. People don’t want to put their bank account information into a site that’s not above board and it’s not easy to get your money out, which is totally understandable.
Whatever the percentage is, I noticed that there were people that had never bet before, because I was getting more questions when that sportsbook popped up about lingo that I’ve ever received.
Did you feel like Hard Rock customer service (unpaid?)
BRANDON KRAVITZ: I mean, honestly yes. Just speaking personally, I find myself between a rock and a hard place with how I feel about it because I turned into a spokesperson for Hard Rock just because it was news. I was using it, my listeners were using it, and so we were talking about it. And they don’t have to pay me a dollar because I’m going to promote it because it’s just natural in conversation.
What was November 2021 like on the air when sports betting was legal in Florida?
Back on the mic today in sunny Orlando, FL. I’ll give you my full Vegas recap, we’ll talk about Jett Howard’s stock on the rise 📈, @johns_tailgate at 335 talking fantasy, @ZacOnTheMic @ 420 with Rays trade plans.
— Brandon Kravitz (@BrandonKravitz) July 13, 2023
BRANDON KRAVITZ: I was sort of in discovery mode with everybody else and figuring out. … Is this real? And then, hopping on, they had a great interface. I mean, that’s the thing that still to this day people talk about with Hard Rock is they really enjoyed using the app. It was good. It just operated really well. It was aesthetically pleasing. And I think that people enjoyed that.
I know I did. And they had good odds, boosters, some of it was localized with state of Florida stuff. And so they were really buttoned up with what they were doing and, and they made the product really fun to use. So yeah, it latched on with sports fans very fast, and when it went away it was like, ‘Wait, do I need to get my money out now?’ And all of a sudden I think that was the biggest thing as far as any sort of war story is people reaching out and wondering, ‘Do I need to cash out now?’ And I’m like, if you have to even ask that question, you should take your money out.
How big can legal betting be in Florida considering the sports landscape?
BRANDON KRAVITZ: It’s huge. I mean, look at all the pro teams, the college teams that are a big deal that have support. And then on top of it, the tourism aspect of it would be massive overnight.
With all of the sports that we have, the stadiums and all the professional teams, whether it’s in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, we’d have live betting at stadiums. And a lot of these places have put a lot of money into upgrading their WiFi. That would be something people would be using at the games, and it would be part of the experience. And those teams, if they were smart, they’d figure out a way to incorporate that into the way that they promote the live product. Because anybody who has a live bet before knows that the best way to do it is sitting there right in the seat at the stadium. Because you don’t have any sort of lag with cable or streaming.
If it’s legal and it’s not like these leagues don’t lean into betting – we see it all over the place – then I think that that could be an aspect of it, too. It’s a cash cow everywhere you look. There’s a way for money to be made off of this inside of the state.