Bill Speros for Bookies.com

By Bill Speros | | 4 mins

Hard Rock App Still Taking Bets in Florida Despite Judge’s Rulings

Hard Rock App Still Taking Bets in Florida Despite Judge’s Rulings
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The Seminole Tribe of Florida continued to take mobile sports betting wagers and deposits via its Hard Rock sports betting app Thursday from existing customers, despite a federal judge ruling against the practice twice this week – including denying a request for a stay of her initial ruling to allow Florida sports betting – both online and in-person – to continue during the appeal process.

A 30-year gaming compact between the Tribe and the State of Florida was vacated by U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich in a 25-page ruling filed on Monday. That decision came as a result of a pair of lawsuits filed against the Department of the Interior for allowing the compact to go into effect. The Tribe was not a party to either case, but sought a stay, claiming it would suffer “irreparable” harm as a result of the judge’s decision. Judge Friedrich rejected that motion by the Tribe late Wednesday night.

Existing customers in Florida were able to make pregame and live wagers on the app during the Bears-Lions and Cowboys-Raiders Thanksgiving Day games that began at 12:30 p.m. ET. They have been able to do so since the judge’s ruling on Monday. The Tribe said again on Thursday it does not plan on stopping action on its betting app.

"The Hard Rock Sportsbook remains fully open to all players. Your funds are safe and secure, and are available for withdrawal via all payment methods if you so choose in accordance with our normal processes," said a message from the apps customer service social media account Thursday afternoon. Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner also said there was no change with the app today despite Wednesday's ruling.

Judge Friedrich ruled against the Tribe’s motion for a stay by saying it “failed to show that this Court’s decision will cause irreparable harm.” The Tribe was given a sports betting monopoly as part of the compact. Two cases were initially filed against the compact in Washington. One was filed by casino owners, including West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Meyers Associates. The other suit was filed by a group that included backers of the “No Casinos” movement in Florida.

The Tribe also filed an appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

What’s Next In Florida

In addition to the possibility of ongoing litigation via either the Tribe or the Department of the Interior itself, there are two other paths forward in Florida for legal, online sportsbooks.

In her ruling on Monday, Judge Friedrich was specific in terms of what options were available for the Tribe and State moving forward. The Tribe and State could agree to a new compact that does not violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Or voters in Florida could approve legal mobile sports betting via a ballot referendum.

The state legislature is scheduled to begin its next 60-day session on January 11. The compact nullified by the judge in her initial ruling and subsequent stay was approved in a special session of the Florida Legislature last April by overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate.

Florida voters passed Amendment 3 in 2018. That measure bans the expansion of gambling in Florida off Indians lands without the approval of 60% of Florida voters via a referendum question that was generated by citizen’s initiative and not the legislature.

The legal flaw in the mobile sports betting approved in the compact, according to both the plaintiffs in both lawsuits and Judge Friedrich, was the so-called “hub and spoke” system. That allows the Tribe to accept mobile wagers from anywhere in the state from those over 21 that are processed by servers on Indian lands. The Tribe is free to operate brick-and-mortar and online sports betting, but only on Tribal lands.

A ballot initiative that would allow mobile sports betting in Florida has the support of and $32 million in funding from DraftKings and FanDuel. It is being fronted by a group called Florida Election Champions. The group claims it has gathered more than 500,000 signatures to get the item on the 2022 Florida ballot. Yet only 122,796 signatures have been validated. A total of 891,589 are needed before the Feb. 1 deadline.

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.