Seminole Tribe introduces ‘restricted’ online sports betting platform

The Seminole Tribe of Florida triumphed in a major legal battle, allowing them to quietly relaunch their sports betting app, Hard Rock Bet, in the state. Only a select group with ties to the tribe’s gambling operations is currently able to use the app, with others placed on a waiting list for early access.

This is the second time in as many years that the Seminoles have introduced a mobile sports betting app in Florida. The tribe opted for a low-key launch, likely to test the app’s stability before a wider release.

Last week, tribal leaders announced plans to introduce sports betting to their casino operations by December. This decision came after receiving approval from the U.S. Supreme Court in a lengthy legal battle over sports betting.

In 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis and Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. signed a 30-year gambling agreement, granting the tribe control over sports betting statewide. In return, the Seminoles committed to paying the state at least $2.5 billion over five years, with the potential for even greater payments over the pact’s duration.

With Florida’s large population and millions of annual tourists, the state has the potential to become a highly profitable market for sports betting. However, the sports betting plan was initially delayed due to legal disputes, including a federal lawsuit filed by pari-mutuel companies challenging the deal. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately chose not to block the agreement.

The legal battle centered on the compact’s “hub-and-spoke” plan, enabling bettors to place wagers anywhere in the state through computer servers on tribal lands. Some companies argued that this violated federal gambling laws by permitting wagering off tribal grounds.

While the Supreme Court’s decision allowed the sports betting deal to proceed, additional legal challenges remain. Pari-mutuel companies and an owner filed a separate lawsuit alleging that the sports-betting arrangement violates a constitutional amendment requiring statewide voter approval for gambling expansions.

Overall, the Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock Bet app signals a significant advancement for sports betting in Florida, unlocking new opportunities for gamblers and potentially reshaping the state’s gambling landscape.