Online sports betting returned to Florida with no advance warning on Tuesday (November 7), after the Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock Bet app began accepting limited deposits and wagers for the first time in two years.
The Seminole Tribe has exclusive rights to retail and mobile sports betting in the state under a landmark tribal gaming compact that was approved in 2021, but was only recently restored by a federal appeals court ruling.
As things stand, the Hard Rock app is available only to customers who either bet with the app for a brief period in 2021 before a lower court ruled against the compact, or to members of Hard Rock's casino loyalty program.
It is not clear when Hard Rock will fully relaunch and open registration to all players in Florida.
“The Seminole Tribe is offering limited access to existing Florida customers to test its Hard Rock Bet platform,” said a spokesman with the tribe.
On its website, Hard Rock states that during the early access period any players who use Hard Rock Bet in another state need to join a wait list to be verified before allowing to wager in Florida.
For any bettors who are not Hard Rock loyalty members and who have not previously wagered with Hard Rock Bet, the operator will require to sign up in-person for a loyalty account and get at least one loyalty program point by playing a casino game at one of the Seminole Tribe's casinos in Florida.
Currently, Hard Rock Bet is available in Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. The app offers both mobile wagering and iGaming in New Jersey.
The decision to move forward with testing of Hard Rock Bet comes about two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a motion submitted by West Flagler Associates to extend the pause on the 2021 gaming compact pending further legal challenges.
West Flagler has until December 11 to file a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking a review of the 3-0 decision on June 30 by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. upholding Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s approval of the Florida gambling compact.
West Flagler and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, doing business as Bonita Springs Poker Room, claim the compact is improper because it allows players to place wagers from anywhere in Florida via servers located on tribal lands.
In late 2021, the Seminoles launched mobile wagering for 34 days before U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the compact violated federal law by allowing gaming outside tribal lands.
Friedrich also vacated the entire compact rather than striking the online sports-betting portions and allowing the rest of the compact to remain in place.
The Seminole Tribe will roll out the launch of retail sports betting, roulette and craps at its brick-and-mortar casinos over five days during the next month. The first launch will be on December 7 at three South Florida locations. The tribe will then debut the games in Tampa and Naples on December 8, followed by its Brighton casino on December 11.
Mobile sports betting was not part of the Seminole’s initial announcement last week regarding expanded gambling operations.