Seminole Tribe Flexes Legal Sports Betting Status in Florida with ‘Official’ Launch

The in-person and online sports betting launch is a show of confidence by the Seminole Tribe and Hard Rock given their recent legal victories.

Dec 7, 2023 • 15:44 ET • 4 min read
Seminole Hard Rock
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is done keeping quiet about its legal monopoly on sports betting in the Sunshine State, even if it may not be totally out of the woods in court.

It was hard to miss that message in a video posted Thursday by the Twitter/X account of the Seminole-owned Hard Rock Bet, as it featured actors singing loudly that “HARD ROCK BET IS LEGAL IN FLORIDA” and that it is “THE ONLY ONE THAT’S LEGAL.”

The online sportsbook app opened for all adults over the age of 21 in Florida earlier this week, but Hard Rock and the Seminole Tribe are calling Thursday the official launch. 

Thursday is also the same day that in-person sports betting, craps, and roulette are set to debut at the tribe's brick-and-mortar casinos in Florida, an occasion to be marked by several celebrities walking the red carpet at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood.

“We’re continuing our rollout of the Hard Rock Bet app in Florida and look forward to the official launch of in-person and mobile sports betting on Thursday,” a spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe told Covers via email on Tuesday.

Thursday’s launch is a show of confidence by the Seminole Tribe and Hard Rock given their recent legal victories

Hard Rock Bet first launched in Florida in 2021 but shut down after a judge threw out federal approval of a compact struck that same year between the state and the tribe. That decision was reversed earlier this year, and attempts to suspend the judgment fell short, leading to the Seminole’s decision to relaunch online sports betting in Florida in November on a limited basis. 

Those limitations were self-imposed, however, and the tribe is dropping them and taking full advantage of the games afforded to them under the 2021 compact with the state. 

Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen told Bloomberg recently it was the legal wins in federal and state court that gave them the confidence to move forward with the statewide launch of online sports betting and the expansion of in-person gambling at their six casinos.

“The United States Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court all unanimously ruled in our favor,” Allen reportedly said. “We obviously knew that was a greenlight to move forward.”

The one and only

There is still a chance the U.S. or Florida Supreme Court says otherwise, but, for now, the Seminole and Hard Rock are operating like their legal troubles are behind them. That makes Florida the biggest online sports betting market in the U.S., and the exclusive domain of Hard Rock and the Seminole.

The total size of the prize is not clear, but there are a few hints. A major one is the baseline of $2.5 billion over five years promised to Florida under the terms of the compact between the state and tribe. The next closest online sports betting state by population to Florida is New York, and there, the state earned more than $500 million in revenue for education in the past eight months from more than $12 billion in wagering. 

Hard Rock Bet also saw a surge in downloads upon its limited return to Florida in early November, as JMP Securities told clients the online sportsbook app registered around 77,000 downloads in the first week of its relaunch. Even so, the investment bank said in October that the full potential of the Florida market was unlikely to be realized with just one online sportsbook. 

“Between the single platform offering in Florida, and its technology, we believe Florida will generate $1.3bn to $1.5bn of gaming revenue at maturity, compared to $2bn if the market was competitive,” analyst Jordan Bender wrote. “New York, a market we model generating $2bn at maturity, is a comparable given the population, and income/capita.” 

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