Florida’s Online Sports Betting: Between a Rock and a Hard Place


It was a beautiful three weeks while it lasted and, undoubtedly, signalled the future direction of gaming in the Sunshine State but, as the old saying goes, one swallow does not a summer make.

Online sports betting in Florida, forgive the pun, has been caught between a rock and a hard place — for the moment at least.

After what turns out to have been a “misinterpretation” of state law, Florida’s native American Seminole Tribe have been ordered to suspend their newly-launched online sports betting app.

The Seminole nation–like native tribes across America–have special sanction to operate casinos and gambling operations on their semi-autonomous “reservations”.

Thus, on November 1 they launched the Hard Rock Sportsbook, Florida’s first legal online sports betting site.

But on November 22 a federal U.S. court ruled that the iGaming app violated the terms of the compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Nation regarding the legal boundaries of betting.

The Seminole already have a monopoly of sports betting in Florida.

But, although the servers were sited on tribal land, the Hard Rock sports app, quite naturally, also allowed punters to wager remotely anywhere in the state, while off Indian land.

The platform has now ceased accepting new bets, accounts and deposits — although it remains active for customers to withdraw funds.

The legal action was brought by the Seminole Nation’s casino competitors West Flagler Associates and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation.

They argued that the Hard Rock sportsbook activity violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

Rock Steady:

The presiding Judge Dabney Friedrich concurred with the query, ruling that the action attempted to “authorize sports betting both on and off Indian lands”.

Under Florida law, any extension of tribal associated gambling–the so-called “compact”–requires a referendum, with 60 per cent in favour, to be legal.

Responded a spokesperson for the Hard Rock sportsbook: “We are temporarily suspending the acceptance of new bets and account deposits. [But] we remain committed to building the best place for sports betting in Florida. We look forward to welcoming you back in the future.”

And that day, industry watchers concur, given the foretaste, will soon come.

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