ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Legal sports betting has resumed in Florida.
As of Tuesday morning, the Hard Rock Bet app had begun accepting deposits and wagers from existing customers. Florida sports betting is officially back online, returning the coveted state of nearly 22 million residents to the regulated sports betting fold.
Said Seminole Tribe of Florida spokesperson Gary Bitner: “The Seminole Tribe is offering limited access to existing Florida customers to test its Hard Rock Bet platform.”
Users were told on the app that having placed a bet through Hard Rock in 2021 or possessing one of two loyalty cards earned early access. There was also a prompt for new users to register and deposit to qualify for a $100 “free” bet.
At nearly 22 million residents, Florida again becomes the most-populated state with a legal sports betting market underway.
Hard Rock Digital, which is majority-owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, last took bets in the state on Dec. 4, 2021, ending a 33-day run. US District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich had ordered betting activity stopped on Nov. 22, agreeing with plaintiffs West Flagler Associates and Bonita Springs Poker Room that the Seminoles’ deal to offer mobile sports betting off tribal lands in Florida violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The Department of the Interior, which had tacitly allowed the compact to pass into law as an acceptable extension of IGRA, continued to seek a reversal until a three-judge panel from the US District Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, issued a favorable ruling on June 30.
West Flagler exhausted its final attempts in that court when a request for an en banc hearing was denied on Sept. 11, and a request for a stay of the final execution of the judgment was rebuffed on Sept. 28.
The parimutuel outlets opened a second front by asking the Florida Supreme Court to prevent a relaunch. They claimed that Gov. Ron DeSantis and the State Legislature went beyond their purview to approve the 30-year gambling compact in 2021.
West Flagler said in September and reaffirmed in October that it planned to appeal to the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court subsequently granted a West Flagler temporary stay order on a potential launch as it considered a permanent one pending a writ of certiorari.
Speculation circulated widely if Hard Rock would wait until the resolution of the court cases to relaunch mobile for fear of upsetting customers that had already put up with one shutdown of the service.
West Flagler asked the Florida Supreme Court to stop the Seminoles from accepting bets until the case there played out. The court has yet to respond. The state has until December to respond to West Flagler’s suit.
Florida Reaction to Mobile Sports Betting Re-launch
The general consensus among gambling industry observers and analysts in Florida was that there was no real impediment to the Seminoles relaunching, even with cases pending in the United States and Florida Supreme Courts. The US Supreme Court refusing to extend a temporary stay on a re-launch has been taken by most that the high court will not take up the case when petitioned by West Flagler Associates later this month.
Noted one South Florida gambling consultant: ” I just wonder about any futures bets given the possibility that West Flagler could find a judge that sympathizes with them. At the same time by launching this now and possibly increasing the urgency of West Flagler to press the issue, it does bring up the possibility of holding up the launch of craps and roulette next month which will bring in a lot more for the Seminoles than OSB ever will.”
Hard Rock Bet’s minimum wager in Florida is currently $1 despite being as low as a dime in its other markets.
Timeline Of Florida Sports Betting Return
- May 26, 2021: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 20-year gambling compact into law in a ceremony with Seminole tribal leadership. The deal also granted the Seminoles retail sports betting, craps, and roulette at their casinos. They never offered those table games before the shutdown.
- July 6, 2021: Magic City Casino filed a lawsuit claiming the compact violated IGRA by sanctioning gambling activity off tribal lands.
- Aug. 6, 2021: The compact passed into the Federal Register with tacit approval from the Department of the Interior, which neither approved nor disallowed it. DOI was critical of the “marketing” model behind hub-and-spoke concept but asserted that IGRA should be interpreted broadly for tribes to exploit all commercial avenues.
- Oct. 15, 2021: Florida sports betting became officially legal.
- Nov. 1, 2021: Without fanfare or advance notification, the Hard Rock Sportsbook app began taking bets in Florida. Neither retail betting nor craps and roulette – which were also granted in the compact – rolled out, however.
- Nov. 22, 2021: Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of the two pari-mutuels suing jointly to shut down the compact.
- Dec. 4, 2021: Hard Rock Digital’s mobile app is suspended.
- Jan. 19, 2022: The U.S. Department of the Interior filed a notice of appeal to challenge the ruling of US District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich invalidating the compact.
- Jan. 28, 2022: Florida Education Champions failed to accrue the 891,589 valid signatures needed by Feb. 1., to put the DraftKings/FanDuel-backed referendum on the ballot. The national sports betting market leaders hoped to have a chance to compete in one of the three biggest untapped markets in US sports betting: California, Florida, and Texas.
- June 30, 2023: A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, reversed a lower-court ruling that voided the 2021 compact. In the ruling, the panel gave IGRA a broader interpretation to offer the type of gambling (read: Internet and mobile) that could not have been foreseen when the document was made law in 1988.
- July 17, 2023: Hard Rock’s sports betting app rebranded as Hard Rock Bet as part of a national move toward its online casino product. Florida users were prompted to update their app, but deposits and bets were still prohibited.
- July 21, 2023: Although wagers and deposits were still not allowed on the Hard Rock Bet app, Florida users were informed they’d automatically be enrolled in a new loyalty program.
- Aug. 14, 2023: West Flagler Associates asked for an en banc hearing before the US District Court of Appeals, DC Circuit. This would be a hearing in front of as many as 15 judges. These are rarely granted.
- Aug. 16, 2023: US District Court of Appeals, DC Circuit gave the Department of the Interior 15 days to respond to a request for an en banc appeal from West Flagler Associates. West Flagler’s string of victories in federal court had been overturned in late June.
- Aug. 30, 2023: The Department of the Interior responded, calling West Flagler’s reasonings for requesting a new hearing “strawmen.”
- Sept. 11, 2023: The DC Circuit denied the en banc hearing request. Per a previous order of the court, the matter was considered closed seven days after a final judgment. A 90-day window to appeal to the US Supreme Court began for West Flagler. The court had taken up two cases germane to Native American sovereignty in 2023, but overall accepts only about 1% of requests.
- Sept. 15, 2023: West Flagler filed a motion asking the Appeals Court to stay its mandate of implementing judgment – and, therefore, the possible relaunch of sports betting in Florida – so it can appeal to the Supreme Court.
- Sept. 25, 2023: In a required response to the court, the DOI calls a stay “not warranted” because the case doesn’t rise to the level of consideration by the Supreme Court.
- Sept. 26, 2023: West Flagler Associates asks the Florida Supreme Court to prevent Florida sports betting from re-launching on multiple grounds, including that it constitutes an expansion of gambling that DeSantis and the State Legislature had no power to conduct.
- Sept. 28, 2023: US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit denies the stay request.
- Oct. 2, 2023: State senior deputy solicitor Christopher J. Baum logs in as legal counsel for DeSantis.
- Oct. 5, 2023: No Casinos anti-gambling expansion group asks the Florida Supreme Court to file a brief in support of West Flagler.
- Oct. 5, 2023: The State of Florida asks for an extension to respond if No Casinos can submit a brief and is granted an extension to prepare it. That request is given two days later.
- Oct. 6, 2023: West Flagler asks the United States Supreme Court to stay the resumption of sports betting in Florida and promises a writ of certiorari by Nov. 20.
- Oct. 12, 2023: Chief Justice John Roberts recalls the mandate of the DC Circuit and orders the stay under the Supreme Court can be briefed.
- Oct. 16, 2023: Deadline for No Casinos brief to Florida Supreme Court.
- Oct. 18, 2023: The Department of the Interior responds to the temporary stay order granted by the US Supreme Court, calling it unnecessary because the court is unlikely to take up the case.
- Oct. 19, 2023: The State of Florida asks for a 30-day extension from the state Supreme Court to respond to West Flagler’s claims that it was beyond its powers in entering the compact with the Seminoles in 2021.
- Oct. 20, 2023: The Florida Supreme Court extends the state’s deadline to respond to Dec. 1.
- Oct. 25, 2023; The US Supreme Court denies the stay request, saying the argument is better resolved in Florida.
- Nov. 1, 2023: The Seminole Tribe announces a schedule to launch retail sports betting, craps, and roulette at its six casinos in the state.
- Nov. 7, 2023: Mobile sports betting resumes on Hard Rock Bet app for existing customers.
- Nov. 7, 2023: West Flagler Associates asks the Florida Supreme Court to order a temporary halt to sports betting in Florida until the case is adjudicated.
- Nov. 17, 2023: The Florida Supreme Court denies the request.
- Nov. 20, 2023: West Flagler’s promised deadline for an official Supreme Court petition. West Flagler asks for an extension to Feb. 4 to allow the Florida litigation to play out.
- Dec. 1, 2023: The State of Florida’s response deadline in state Supreme Court. The state files at 11:22 p.m., claiming the suit should be dismissed for various reasons, including that West Flagler shouldn’t have waited two years. It also claims sports betting isn’t “casino gambling” and applicable under Amendment 3 even though the state had argued it was in 2021.
- Dec. 1, 2023: The US Supreme Court grants the extension request to Feb. 4 for a writ of certiorari.
- Dec. 5, 2023: Hard Rock Bet opens mobile sports betting to new customers, two days earlier than previously announced.
- Dec. 7, 2023: Retail sports betting, craps, and roulette launch date for Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood, and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.
- Dec. 8, 2023: Retail sports betting, craps, and roulette launch date for Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa.
- Dec. 11, 2023: Retail sports betting, craps, and roulette launch date for Seminole Casino Immokalee and Seminole Brighton Casino.
- Feb. 4, 2024: West Flagler Associates deadline for US Supreme Court petition.