Seminoles Quietly Launch Mobile Sports Betting in Florida

Seminoles Quietly Launch Mobile Sports Betting in Florida
By Bill Ordine

Florida, a state with a reputation for producing weird news stories (like the guy whose capture of an alligator in a trash bin several weeks ago went viral), has cast its weirdness net over sports wagering.

Monday, unexpectedly, Floridians were given the chance to bet on sports online through a Seminole Hard Rock Sportsbook betting app.

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It was quite the surprise considering: A.) There are two legal challenges that are scheduled to be heard Friday in District Court for the District of Columbia from two parties seeking to halt the sports betting agreement between the Seminoles and the state; and B.) The Seminoles had indicated that they wouldn’t flip the switch on sports gambling until Nov. 15, although they could have gone ahead on Oct. 15.

Still, without any drumroll, the Hard Rock Sportsbook standalone sports betting app went live Monday — no news releases, no press conferences. Usually when a sportsbook goes live in a state, it has a major rollout.

OK, let’s just call it Florida being Florida.

But apart from the surprise factor, there is genuine significance here in that the third largest state in the U.S. by population with nearly 22 million persons (more than half over 21 years old) is now open to legal sports wagering.

Seminoles Control Market

Right now, it’s an exclusive market with the Seminoles in charge. The Seminoles own and operate six casinos in Florida, including major gambling resorts, Hard Rock Hollywood in Southeast Florida and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on the Gulf Coast. And now, through, the Seminoles have a virtual monopoly on sports betting in the juiciest market in America (pari-mutuels can participate but only through the Seminoles).

The tribe announced last week that it had reached marketing agreements with five pari-mutuels in the state as it prepared to launch sports betting.

The pari-mutuels are expected to promote the Hard Rock app to customers in exchange for 60% of the profits generated from the marketing. The tribe said in the news release announcing the deals that marketing agreements with other Florida pari-mutuels would be announced soon.

More Than Half in US Can Place Bets Legally

In the larger picture, the U.S. market has reached a milestone. With legal online sports betting in the Sunshine State and a number of Louisiana casinos over the weekend introducing retail sportsbooks, more than half of American adults (54%) can now place legal sports bets in their home state, according to the American Gaming Association.

That percentage will grow significantly whenever New York, with a population of 19.3 million, gets to the finish line on launching statewide online sports gambling — perhaps as soon as Super Bowl Sunday.

However, the Florida experience is going to be interesting. It’s hard to imagine that the DraftKings, the FanDuels, the BetMGMs and the Caesar Sportsbooks of the gambling world are going to get shut out completely in that huge market.

Legal Challenges Remain

There are many, many moving parts to the Florida drama.

For starters, there are legal challenges. And then there are potential voter referendums. And there may be more deals yet to be cut with the pari-mutuel industry.

Importantly, though, having legal sports wagering in Florida — with its three NFL teams, two MLB teams, two NBA teams, two NHL teams, two Major League Soccer teams and 13 NCAA Division I college teams — creates even more media momentum for sports wagering overall and enormous opportunity for marketing and advertising.

So, yes, the advent of legal sports wagering in Florida was weird. But that doesn’t alter the fact that it is indeed highly significant.



A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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