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Hard Rock Chairman: Craps, Roulette, In-Person Sports Betting 'Here To Stay' In Florida

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 8 mins

Hard Rock Chairman: Craps, Roulette, In-Person Sports Betting 'Here To Stay' In Florida

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Hard Rock Chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen said craps, roulette, and in-person sports betting are "here to stay" in Florida once they launch next Thursday at the Tribe's Hollywood casino. 

Allen is also adamant that Florida will not become a “Vegas of the East” once his company offers a full menu of casino games, in addition to retail and in-person sports betting. 

“We know very clearly the leadership of the State of Florida does not want ‘Vegas of the East,’ and frankly, nor does the Seminole Tribe,” Allen said. “What we are trying to do is create a true destination that offers more than just a local regional casino that has slots in the box, if you will. And clearly that's the business model of two Hard Rock anchors in Florida.”

Allen spoke with bookies.com in a wide-ranging interview Friday, six days before the planned debut of those above-mentioned casino games and in-person wagering at the company’s South Florida casino. 

Table Games Important Part Of Deal 

The South Florida rollout of craps, roulette, and in-person sports betting is scheduled to include a star-studded component featuring Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Mike Tyson, Dwyane Wade, and DJ Khaled among others participating in a red-carpet event. The “New Era” in Florida Gaming also includes the start of roulette, craps, and in-person betting at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa on Friday (Dec. 8), and at the other Hard Rock Florida casinos on the following Monday (Dec. 11). 

The introduction of legal craps and roulette is an often-overlooked part of the coverage of the 2021 Florida gaming compact that legalized mobile and retail sports betting. According to the compact, the Tribe must pay a slightly higher percentage of its net win from table games to the state as it does from sports betting. 

Craps and roulette are key elements in completing the plan to make their casinos on par with those elsewhere. Allen noted that tourists from South America, for example, will enjoy having roulette available in the Hard Rock’s South Florida casinos given the game’s popularity on that continent. 

Parimutuel Partners To Launch With Retail 

Hard Rock Chairman: Craps, Roulette, In-Person Sports Betting 'Here To Stay' In Florida 1

The Tribe’s recent re-launch of the Hard Rock Bet app marked a betting milestone as Florida is once again the largest state in terms of population in the U.S. with live and legal sports wagering. Allen would not release any figures on revenue produced by the app or the number of users saying the company did not set goals during this initial phase. 

He said the company chose the soft-launch approach with no preview announcement or marketing to both ensure that all the app's technical components would work and to prevent any illegal off-shore operators who may target the app from having advanced warning. 

The Hard Rock Bet app’s return came following a two-year journey in federal court. The app was up for 34 days in 2021. But it was shut down after a lower court judge ruled that the gaming compact between the Tribe and state violated state law. A federal appeals court reversed that decision earlier this year. The U.S. Supreme Court in October refused a request by a group that includes West Flagler Associates to issue a stay in the case. 

The Tribe partnered with multiple parimutuel operators in Florida in 2021 as part of the compact. Allen said those sites will be able to launch their branded “hub and spoke” betting sites on Thursday, as well. Each parimutuel operator is free to brand their cashless sites however they choose. The actual betting components will be operated by the Tribe. The Tribe is set to get a 40% cut of each parimutuel operator's net earnings. 

The Tribe, through its House Rules, has the final say in any customer disputes concerning sports betting. But bettors are free to appeal any decision the Florida Gaming Commission.  

Craps, Roulette, In-Person Betting ‘Here To Stay’

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Allen said the Tribe fully expected the legal challenges it faced but was prepared to launch once they were resolved. And he knows more challenges could be in the cards. 

“It doesn't mean that the plaintiffs won't continue to try to file additional legal actions, but once we've received a unanimous decision from the United States Supreme Court and the State of Florida Supreme Court in regard to not granting the plaintiffs any injunctive release from stopping us to launch, that's really what drove us forward,” Allen said. 

WFA is expected to submit a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in February once key elements of its state case are resolved. In a lawsuit filed in Tallahassee, WFA claimed the governor and legislature violated the Florida constitution when the compact was passed in May of 2021. 

The Tribe is not a party in either the federal or state case. Allen said any reaction to a potential state supreme court ruling would depend on the words in any specific order. Allen would not comment on the possibility of negotiating a deal with the owners of WFA in exchange for them dropping one or both cases. 

“The plaintiffs are not challenging the compact and they are not challenging the in-person sports bet. They are challenging the concept of mobile. Depending upon the court's ruling here, it would be premature for me to give any specific direction, but certainly, craps, roulette, and in-person sports betting at least at the state level is here to stay, and that's not too represent that someone else could try to come up with some other legal theory,” he said. 

Single-Player Pick ‘Em Fantasy Games “Illegal’ 

Allen echoed the belief shared by most licensed sports books that single-player pick 'em games are illegal because they mirror bets available on traditional sports betting sites. PrizePicks, Underdog Fantasy, and Betr were recently served with “cease and desist” orders by the Florida Gaming Commission. Multiple states, including New York, have banned fantasy games that are “ mimicking proposition betting.”

“There’s is no way in God's creation, those operators can honestly, with a straight face, say that is legal gaming activity. Hence, they're doing everything they can to create legislation this week (in Florida) trying to legalize what they've already been given notice of a violation,” Allen said. 

“What they are doing is illegal,” Allen added. “Trying to circumvent the process and then with a straight face try to say that ‘Oh, it's not gambling.’ They're using the identical prop technology they use in other states where it is defined as needed, which is, frankly, a little bit humorous.

'Better Deal' In Florida Not So Simple

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A common criticism of the 2021 Florida Gaming Compact says the state should have held out for a better deal with the Tribe, and/or other sportsbook operators. Allen doesn’t discount those concerns but offers the following in rebuttal. 

“It's not a decision solely by the Seminole Tribe, or by the state of Florida, or by the Department of Interior for the NIGC. All of these parties have to come together. I could negotiate the best deal there is with the Tribe. But you still have to obtain federal approval,” Allen said. “In the history of gaming in the United States. No entity, Sovereign, or Republic has ever guaranteed any state billions or two and a half billions of dollars. There's no single entity that has ever paid the type of revenue share that we pay to the state of Florida. But that doesn't mean that others may not feel that there could have been a better deal, that we will certainly respect their point of view.”

In 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 3, which prohibits the expansion of “casino gaming” off Indian lands without 60% voter approval in a statewide referendum. That law, however, did not mention sports betting since it had not been legalized nationwide when the measure was proposed for the ballot. The Tribe and Disney were the two primary financial supporters of that campaign. Now, both entities are all-in on sports betting, inside and outside of Florida.  

Sports Betting, iGaming Expansion 'Long-Term Conversation'

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In his role as American Gaming Association Chairman, Allen commands a 360-degree view of the sports betting, casino, and igaming landscape. He believes a mainstream presence of sports betting (now legal in 37 states, plus Washington DC) will eventually diminish the perception that gambling is an illegal or illicit activity. That could result in more states passing laws allowing online and mobile casino play. 

But Allen preaches patience when it comes to any sort of timetable for such national acceptance. 

The Adelson Family’s move to purchase a majority stake in the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks has been labeled a plus in terms of sports betting eventually being legalized in the Lone Star State. But Allen knows that process will take several years, given that the Texas Legislature only meets every two years and won’t adjourn again until 2025. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who serves as president of the state senate, has long said he will not bring a sports betting to the floor until it enjoys enough Republican support to pass on its own. A group of major-league teams and leagues in Texas have supported efforts to legalize betting there. 

“It's a long-term conversation. We were the first to get involved with major sports teams, whether it's our partnership with the Yankees or obviously working with the NFL and Steve Ross to create Hard Rock Stadium, and remember we did that before the Supreme Court (PASPA) decision. It is something that we recognize the excitement of sports gambling and entertainment, all being able to be able to be good companions to individuals that enjoy that type of activity."

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.