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Florida Sports Betting: Hard Rock Floats Online Casino/Sportsbook Monopoly Swap

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 12 mins

Florida Sports Betting: Hard Rock Floats Online Casino/Sportsbook Monopoly Swap

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HOLLYWOOD, Florida - While the ultimate fate of Florida sports betting remains in front of both the U.S. and State of Florida Supreme Courts, the door may be ajar for a competitive wagering market. 

Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen continues to let it be known that the Tribe wants the state to allow online casino betting, and would be willing to relinquish the Tribe's monopoly on online sports wagering to help make it happen. 

The 2021 Gaming Compact opened the door for legal sports betting in Florida, along with craps and roulette at the Hard Rock's Florida casinos. It originally included a provision for online casino betting. However, that was stripped in the negotiation process before the Florida legislature passed the compact three years ago this month in a special session. The compact will pay the state $500 million per year, including roughly $48 million for sports betting

RELATED: Q&A With Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen

Allen spoke at the East Coast Gaming Congress (ECGC) reiterating remarks he's made in the past to bookies.com about the Tribe's desire to launch an online casino, and its willingness to cut a deal. 

A Hard Rock source told bookies.com that talks between the Tribe/Hard Rock and operators including DraftKings and FanDuel have occurred. 

However, nothing of substance happened because the outside operators were "not willing to bend the knee."  

DraftKings and FanDuel funded a push to get a sports betting referendum on the 2022 state ballot. Those two outfits spent a combined $35 million and failed to get enough signatures to make it. 

In May 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Osceola signed a 30-year compact that allowed for statewide mobile sports betting via the Seminole Tribe's Hard Rock betting app, now known as the Hard Rock Bet app.

Florida Potentially Top 4 Sports Betting State In U.S. 

Florida Sports Betting: Hard Rock Floats Online Casino/Sportsbook Monopoly Swap 2

Hard Rock does not release figures on its betting handle or gross gaming revenue. 

Florida is the most populous state in the nation that has legal sports betting with 21.78 million people. 

Those over 21 located in Florida can bet legally on the sports via the Hard Rock Bet app, run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Tribe is also offering retail sports betting at its Hard Rock casinos in the state. 

State economists project the Florida Gaming Compact that enables sports betting will deliver more than $340 million in tax revenue to Florida during the fiscal year that ends June 30.  Overall, Economists at the Revenue Estimating Conference met last week and projected the state to receive $4.43 billion over the next six years.

ROCK 'N ROLL HEAVEN: A Visit To The Hard Rock Vault

Of course, not all of that money is from sports betting. The revenues from the compact encompass all gaming revenues from the Tribe, including money from slot machines, table games, card games, craps, and roulette. 

The economists project the Tribe's taxable gross gaming revenue (GGR) from sports betting to be $407.8 million this fiscal year, and $750.2 million in the first full fiscal year of betting that runs from July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2025. 

Using the industry average GGR of about 8%, the Tribe's handle in its first fiscal year of betting could reach $9.5 billion. Based on the 2023 handle numbers, that would make Florida the No. 4 state in the nation in terms of sports betting handle, behind only New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. But ahead of Nevada.

New York has 19.84 million people but features a competitive sports betting market with 9 legal sportsbooks. They include DraftKings and FanDuel, which combine to control about 60% of the U.S. legal sports betting market. 

What's Next In Florida?

Florida Sports Betting: Hard Rock Floats Online Casino/Sportsbook Monopoly Swap 3

Legal Florida sports betting re-launched in November 2023 following a two-year fight in federal court over the legality of the deal that launched betting here in 2021. The Hard Rock Bet app was shuttered in late 2021 after a 34-day run following the decision of a federal judge. 

Since the Hard Rock Bet app returned, multiple wagers totaling or paying $1 million have been made by bettors inside Florida. One bettor won $5.5 million on a $500,000, four-leg NFL parlay in Week 10.  

On October 25,  the U.S. Supreme Court allowed an appeals-court ruling to take effect that reinstates the 2021 gaming compact allowing the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer craps and roulette in its casinos, in-person sports betting, and online betting through the app.

That decision denied a stay sought by WFA and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., who sued in both federal and state court. 

The "hub-and-spoke" online betting portion of the compact was the basis for WFA's dual lawsuits. It allows state-wide betting because the servers handling the transactions are based on Indian lands. 

The Tribe filed an amicus brief with the Florida Supreme Court on December 8. It reaffirmed the the argument made by the DeSantis administration a week earlier that Amendment 3 does not prohibit the current "hub and spoke" mobile sports betting set-up in Florida. 

West Flagler Associates Files Writ of Certiorari

The most recent immediate federal legal threat has been shelved until later this year. West Flagler Associates submitted its writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court for it to hear its case against the Department of Interior concerning the Florida Gaming Compact in February. The Court has yet to decide whether to hear the case. 

WFA wants SCOTUS to hear the case that was initially filed two years ago. A lower federal court ruling halted sports betting in Florida in the fall of 2021. That ruling was subsequently overturned earlier this fall.

WFA sought the delay, in part, so it could see how the Florida Supreme Court rules in a related case concerning the gaming compact between the State of Florida and Seminole Tribe. 

Florida State Supreme Court Sides Against West Flagler

In March, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that WFA was not able to take its case directly to that body. The ruling did not address the merits of the lawsuit but rejected WFA's petition for what is known as a "writ of quo warranto," which means "by what authority" in Latin.

WFA filed its state lawsuit on September 26, 2023 in Tallahassee against DeSantis and the Florida Legislature. WFA cited a constitutional amendment passed in 2018 that prohibits the expansion of "casino gaming" off Indian lands. 

WFA subsequently updated its filing in its state lawsuit on October 27 including some of the language from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh cited above saying that the compact could violate the IGRA. 


The Tribe Not Legal Party To Either Case

The Tribe is not a party to the federal case. 

Chief Justice John Roberts on October 12 stayed a ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that had reversed a lower court ruling and allowed the compact to take effect. The ruling on October 25 lifted that stay. 

That meant there was nothing legally preventing the Tribe from enacting its end of the compact, despite a continuing case in front of the Florida Supreme Court. 

WFA initially sued the Department of Interior in 2021 claiming that it erred in allowing the compact to initially take effect. The DOI governs all Indian gaming nationwide through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Gaming Rights Act (IGRA). 

That state lawsuit was filed in the Florida State Supreme Court by WFA claiming Gov. DeSantis and the state legislature violated the Florida Constitution when they approved the deal with the Tribe two years ago. The Florida Supreme Court has given the state Solicitor General until December 1 to file its response to that lawsuit.

Florida Sports Betting Timeline: How We Got Here?  

📅  April 22: Underdog Fantasy brings its Champions peer-to-peer DFS game to Florida. That comes 2 months after it was forced to exit the state because of its daily single-player pick' em game.

📅  March 23: The Florida Supreme Court rules that a case challenging the legality of the Florida Gaming Compact cannot be directly brought before the Court. 

📅  February 29: Three fantasy sports operators - betr, Prize Picks, and Underdog Sports - halt their daily single-player pick' em games after receiving "cease and desist" letters from the state.

📅  February 20: Economists estimate the Hard Rock Bet app and its related retail sports books could generate as much as $750 million in gross gaming renvenue in its first full fiscal-year of operation.

📅  February 11: Super Bowl 58 becomes the first Super Bowl upon which Floridians can legally wager.

📅  February 8, 2024: West Flagler files writ of Writ of Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.

📅  December 7: Craps, roulette, and sports betting launch at all three Seminole Casinos in South Florida: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood, and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.

📅  December 8: Craps, roulette, and sports betting Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa

📅  December 11, 2023: Craps, roulette, and sports betting launch at Seminole Casino Immokalee, near Naples, and Seminole Brighton Casino, on the northwest side of Lake Okeechobee. 

📅  November 8, 2023: West Flagler Associates seeks expedited ruling and stay from Florida Supreme Court

📅  November 7, 2023: Hard Rock App relaunches in Florida after a nearly two-year hiatus. 

📅  November 2023: Tribe announces "New Era In Florida Gaming" with craps, roulette, and in-person betting starting in December.

📅  November 2023: West Flagler Associates is expected to file a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking in to hear its case against the DOI.

📅  October 2023:  U.S. Supreme Court denies a stay on the U.S. District Court of Appeals decision to reinstate the compact. allowing it to take effect.

📅  October 2023: The appeals court orders Friedrich to vacate her decision, officially reinstating the compact.

📅  September 2023: Court of Appeals denies request for full en banc hearing. 

📅  June 2023: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns Federal Judge Dabney L. Friedrich's reversal of the compact.

📅  February 2023: West Flagler Associates sells Magic City Casino.

📅  December 2022:  A 3-judge federal appeals court hears an appeal of Friedrich's decision that overturned the compact.

📅  January 2022: Appeal of Friedrich's decision filed by the Department of Interior in the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit.

📅  November 2021: Betting on the Tribe's app halted after 34 days. 

📅  November 2021: Friedrich overturns compact, calling parts of it "fiction." 

📅  October 2021: Sports betting begins statewide via the Tribe's Hard Rock betting app. It has since been re-branded to Hard Rock Bet.

📅  August 2021: Multiple state and federal lawsuits are filed to overturn the compact, including two by West Flagler Associates.

📅  May 2021: DeSantis and Tribe Chairman Osceola sign a 30-year, $500 million-per-year gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida after it is approved in a special session of the Florida Legislature. 

📅  November 2018: Florida voters approve Amendment 3 (now Article X, Section 30 of the Florida Constitution). It prohibits the legislature from enabling any new "casino gaming" – save for a compact with the Seminole Tribe. It requires 60% approval by the public in a statewide election to expand "casino gaming." It makes no mention of "sports betting." "No Casinos" authored the amendment. That group then worked with Disney and the Tribe, who financed the push for its pass. The Tribe spent more than $24 million of the $46 million raised to back the amendment, state election financial records show. With Disney spending more than $11 million. 

What Florida Sports Betting Looks Like?

Florida Sports Betting: Hard Rock Floats Online Casino/Sportsbook Monopoly Swap 1

With just one betting app, the online consumer market in Florida is somewhat less competitive than it is elsewhere. The Hard Rock app met with generally positive reviews in the Sunshine State. It offers similar odds to its competitors elsewhere. The app currently operates in Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Florida has two MLB teams, two MLS clubs, three NFL franchises, two NHL squads, and two NBA franchises. The state has long been a college hotbed, thanks to the University of Florida, Florida State, and the University of Miami. Both the "U" and Florida Atlantic University reached the NCAA Men's Final Four in 2023. 

MASS APPEAL: Massachusetts Sports Betting Update

The compact requires the Tribe to franchise betting retail, on-site betting rights to at three of the state's parimutuel operators. The parimutuel operators would be free to partner with any operator to run their retail books, such as DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM. In return, the operators would pay the Tribe 40% of their net winnings.

WFA claims the compact caused a "potentially devastating" impact on their casino and poker businesses. The "No Casinos" group said the compact violated the state's constitutional prohibition on gambling expansion off Native American lands without a referendum.

The company sold the Miami Magic City Casino for an estimated $600 million to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians from Alabama in February.

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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.