At the poker table, players must try to read the tells of their opponents to figure out their next move.
Yesterday, the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock Bet left nothing to the imagination and went all in as it posted a meme of the WWE’s Undertaker emerging from a fiery casket to announce that its sports betting app is once again alive and kicking.
However, it’s not available to all sports bettors in The Sunshine State just yet, and it’s not going to happen without at least a fight from another major player trying to break into the Florida market.
Wednesday shortly after Hard Rock Bet went live, West Flagler Associates, upon learning of the launch, filed for a motion with the Florida Supreme Court to suspend online sports wagering in the state until it comes to a decision on its current lawsuit. West Flagler and fellow pari-mutuel company Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation’s lawsuit is arguing that a 2018 constitutional amendment required voter approval of casino gambling. The two companies filed this federal lawsuit in 2021 and it’s still pending.
“This launch was not previously announced and came as a surprise,” stated West Flagler in the motion
. “Taking advantage of the distraction created by their carefully crafted announcement on November 1, the Tribe has sought to surprise the Petitioners and this Court by presenting a ‘fait accompli’ on November 7th.”
For now, only those who placed a wager in 2021 when the app was live for a month or Unity by Hard Rock loyalty members were “invited to start betting” as of yesterday, according to Hard Rock Bet’s website.
Bettors who are not part of either of these groups can still get in on the “early access,” according to the website, by joining the Hard Rock loyalty program at any of the Hard Rock or Seminole Casino locations in Florida -- Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
, Seminole Classic Casino
Hollywood, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
, Seminole Hotel Casino Immokalee, Seminole Casino Hotel Brighton, and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa
. Upon registering, players will be emailed as soon as it’s “their turn” to start betting with “early access.”
“The Seminole Tribe is offering limited access to existing Florida customers to test its Hard Rock Bet platform,” Gary Bitner, a spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe, said in a statement.
While Hard Rock Bet is legally within its rights to offer online sports betting following the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s legal victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on 25 October, the move comes as a surprise.
Especially since, it was only less than a week ago, when the Seminole Tribe of Florida released a press release
stating that it plans to move forward with craps, roulette and sports betting in early December based on the Gaming Compact signed and approved by the Tribe and the State of Florida in 2021, as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection two weeks ago to an attempt to block implementation of the compact.
However, nowhere in the press release did it provide any tell that it was planning on launching online sports wagering again, at least, so soon, which is surprising since there’s still the matter of more legal proceedings
at the state level on whether the U.S. Department of the Interior rightfully approved the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act compact signed by Governor Ron DeSantis between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe in 2021. The tribe was granted a monopoly on retail and sports betting anywhere in Florida, not just on tribal lands, provided the servers are located on tribal lands.
Regardless of how it all shakes out, there is much at stake. According to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, depending on the outcome of court challenges, the Florida sports betting market could be worth conservatively $815 million in 2027, which takes into account Eilers & Krejcik’s forecasting model discounting for the state’s monopoly, under which Hard Rock Bet would be the only operational brand. In addition, Florida alone could earn a 4.5% share of the national market in 2027.