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Florida Sports Betting Live With Hard Rock Sportsbook App Launch

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 5 mins

Florida Sports Betting Live With Hard Rock Sportsbook App Launch

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Florida became the most populous state in America with active, legal, online sports betting Monday as the Seminole Tribe of Florida launched its Hard Rock Sportsbook betting app. Florida sports betting was legalized when the Tribe and state agreed to a 30-year gaming compact after a May special session of the legislature.

The compact, which grants the Tribe a monopoly hold on sports betting in the Sunshine State, was allowed to go into effect after the Department of Interior allowed a 45-day review in August without taking any action on it.

Florida has 22.4 million people, which makes it No. 3 in the nation behind California and Texas. Just last week, the Seminole Tribe announced a deal that would allow five pari-mutuel facilities within the state to market sports betting. That provision was part of the compact, which guarantees the state $500 million in annual revenue for the next five years.

Sports betting has been legal in Florida since Oct. 15. The betting app launched with no official word from the Tribe and without any mass public marketing or advertising. Bettors over 21 located geographically in Florida can wager on pro and college sports using the app, which is available through Google Play and the Apple Store. The Hard Rock Sportsbook app is fairly easy to download and use. Bettors can make deposits through their banks or via PayPal. No Hard Rock Sportsbook promo code is needed.

The Tribe is expected to add more approved current pari-mutuel license holders who can also take bets. Those sites can have their own online betting apps managed by outside operators, as well. The Tribe gets 40% of all their net revenues.

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Two Lawsuits Pending

The launch of the app ended – at least for now – months of uncertainty over whether or not, and when, betting would commence in Florida after the compact's approval at the state and federal level. Two legal challenges remain pending against it.

One lawsuit challenging the Tribe and the state was dismissed by a federal judge in Tallahassee two weeks ago. West Flagler Associates, owners of Magic City Casino in Miami and Bonita Springs Poker Room, sought to stop the sports betting part of the compact in July because it allowed wagers to be processed online outside tribal lands, which is a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. U.S. District Court Judge Allen Winsor ruled that lacked standing to sue the state because it couldn't demonstrate how the state’s approval of the compact caused them harm.

Online sports betting in Florida occurs using a “hub and spoke” system where the servers processing the wagers are located on the Indian land. That approach has been at the core of many attacks on the compact and not allowed in states outside Florida.

Two remaining federal lawsuits were filed in Washington. In one case, West Flagler Associates also sued U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, making the same claim that the “hub and spoke” approach is illegal. The other suit was filed by a group that includes “No Casinos,” which helped to get Florida’s Amendment 3 passed in 2018. That bans the expansion of gambling in Florida without 60% voter approval.

Oral arguments for both cases are scheduled to be heard by U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich on Friday in the District Court for the District of Columbia. The cases are not consolidated, however. Friedrich is a Florida native appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017.

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2022 Ballot Push

Meanwhile, DraftKings and FanDuel have poured $10 million apiece into the drive to get a sports betting referendum on the 2022 Florida ballot, fronted by a group called Florida Education Champions. But with roughly 50% its funding expended thus far, just 7.48% of the signatures required to get the item on the ballot have been gathered.

The proposal backed by those sportsbooks would initially allow those 21 and over to participate in Florida online sports betting, but only from providers who have been legally licensed in at least 10 other states for at least one year, in addition to the Seminole Tribe.

The mission now is to land enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Petitions featuring the logos of both DraftKings and FanDuel have landed in the mailboxes of registered Florida voters urging them to return a signed version of the pre-completed form.

As of its Sept. 30 filing with the Florida Division of Elections, Florida Education Champions had spent $9,889,641.11 of the $20,000,154 it had received in contributions

To get an initiative certified for the 2022 Florida ballot, 891,589 valid signatures are required. Those signatures must come from at least 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts. As of Monday, 66,760 signatures have been submitted in support of the ballot item. The deadline for verification is Feb. 1, 2022.

If those numbers weren’t bleak enough, a flood of TV ads have aired during local and cable news, and regional and national NFL and college football games in Florida, pleading that voters “don’t sign the gambling petitions.” The ads hit “out of state gambling companies” who would turn Florida into “another Las Vegas.” The irony in those ads is that they are backed by $10 million in funding by the Seminole Tribe.

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About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.