Florida Supreme Court Declines To Expedite Hard Rock Sports Betting Case

Florida Supreme Court Declines To Expedite Hard Rock Sports Betting Case
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

The efforts by West Flagler Associations and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp. to stop Hard Rock Bet from offering online Florida sports betting were dealt a blow on Friday as the state’s Supreme Court denied a motion by the two parimutuel operators to have their case challenging its legality expedited. All seven justices agreed on the ruling.

West Flagler, which previously owned the Magic City Casino, and Bonita-Fort Myers, which owns the Bonita Springs Poker Room, requested accelerated consideration of the case on Nov. 7, the same day the Seminole Tribe of Florida started a limited rollout of the online sports betting app.

It initially launched the Hard Rock Bet Florida sportsbook app in the Sunshine State two years ago after the tribe signed an amended compact with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. However, West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers filed a federal lawsuit, and U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich threw out the agreement. A federal appeals court overturned that decision earlier this year.

Friday’s decision was yet another win for the tribe, although it is not officially a party in either the federal or state cases.

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida is pleased with this unanimous decision by the Justices of the Florida Supreme Court,” spokesperson Gary Bitner said.

Hard Rock Bet remains available on a limited basis in Florida, with those who had used the app previously in the state and qualifying members of Hard Rock’s Unity loyalty rewards program able to bet now. The operator is taking signups for a waitlist and will notify others when they can start betting legally in Florida.

Florida Sports Betting Case Will Continue

Friday’s ruling does not end the state case the plaintiffs filed in September. West Flagler and Bonita Springs filed the case against DeSantis and other state leaders. They claimed the officials overstepped their bounds when they approved the compact giving the Seminole Tribe exclusive online sports betting rights statewide. They cite that Amendment 3, a constitutional referendum voters approved in 2018, requires a citizen vote to expand gaming outside tribal lands.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs are also working on their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month, the nation’s top court chose not to stay the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decision that said the U.S. Department of the Interior was right to approve the compact.

What Else Is in the Seminole Compact?

The compact between the Seminole Tribe and the Sunshine State included more than just online Florida sports betting apps rights. The deal, set to generate billions of dollars in revenue for the state over its 30-year term, also allows the tribe to offer dice-based table games, roulette, and retail sportsbooks at its Class III casinos. Seminole Gaming plans to begin offering those at its casinos starting next month.

It also permits three additional Class III casinos to be built on the tribe’s South Florida reservation. In addition, the tribe has the right to build a “hub-and-spoke” network with other gaming providers, allowing them access to sports betting. Under that part of the agreement, the tribe would receive 40% of the revenues generated from kiosks at parimutuel partners it selects.

It’s uncertain when the hub-and-spoke network will launch in Florida at this time.



Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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