Florida Sports Betting On Ice As Hard Rock Pulls Sportsbook App

Written By Brad Allen on December 6, 2021
Florida sports betting on ice

As quickly as it arrived, Florida sports betting is gone.

Hard Rock pulled its sportsbook app over the weekend after a series of court rulings against the legality of sports betting in Florida.

The latest was an Appeals Court decision that denied a temporary stay of the District Court’s decision against the 2021 Florida gambling compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe.

As a result, Hard Rock Sportsbook said Saturday it had to “temporarily suspend operations”.

What does it mean for Florida sports bettors?

All bets for events after 11 a.m. on Saturday were voided, including futures.

That was not great timing for Hard Rock or bettors with NFL Week 13 on Sunday.

Regardless, player funds are “safe and secure” and withdrawable, Hard Rock said.

Free bets will be tracked and returned to players “if Hard Rock Sportsbook begins accepting bets again.”

More legal battles to come

The Seminole Tribe noted the ruling only said the tribe could not take bets while the full appeals process plays out.

The Tribe said it would work with the state and the US Department of Justice to “aggressively defend the validity of the 2021 compact before the Appeals Court.”

A spokesperson said the tribe, the state and the US government had all rubber-stamped the compact.

All eyes on appeals court

The attention now turns to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the Seminole Tribe will try and overturn the ruling that vacated the compact.

The legal dispute centers around where a mobile wager is actually placed. The Tribe argues it takes place on servers on their land. That would make it legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

However, Judge Dabney Friedrich called that idea “fiction.”

“When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by “deeming” their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not,” Friedrich said.

In fact, Friedrich vacated the compact in its entirety. That means even in-person betting is unlikely at the moment.

What next for sports betting in Florida?

The Sunshine State looks to be without sports betting for some time as the appeal process could take six months to a year.

That said, the state may have two alternate routes forward.

The Tribe could seek some help from Florida federal lawmakers and revive the Anthony Brindisi legislation that would allow online betting under IGRA.

Otherwise, FanDuel and DraftKings are working on a ballot initiative that would legalize widespread online sports betting. That may be on the ballot in November 2022. If passed, Florida sports betting could be live in 2023.

Photo by Chris O'Meara / The Associated Press
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Brad Allen

Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.

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