Hard Rock Bet Florida Relaunches Mobile Betting in Surprise Move
After a two-year hiatus, online sports betting in Florida is back up and running through the Hard Rock Bet app as of Tuesday, November 7.
This surprise announcement marks the latest twist in a two-year legal battle that started in late 2021. That’s when Hard Rock Bet opened and then was forced to close after just a month.
It is also a significant step for the Sunshine State, which is now the largest state with regulated online sports betting, albeit with some limitations.
Hard Rock Bet announced the news, and the limited sign-up process, on social media.
“The Seminole Tribe is offering limited access to existing Florida customers to test its Hard Rock Bet platform,” said a spokesperson.
Last week, the Seminoles announced the upcoming launch of Florida retail sports betting. They see the dismissal of the stay, requested by Florida cardroom operator West Flagler, as a vindication of the gaming compact they signed in 2021.
Many in the industry were not expecting the Seminoles to relaunch Hard Rock Bet in Florida so soon. That’s because the Supreme Court’s decision was focused on retail betting at tribal gaming locations, and specifically said mobile betting was not under its purview.
West Flager is currently pursuing an alternative legal path through the Florida courts, where it is set to argue that the Florida Constitution still prohibits sports betting outside of tribal lands. If they are successful, a public referendum on the issue could be required.
That’s why, when Hard Rock announced last week it was opening retail betting at its six Florida casinos, many saw the absence of a mention of mobile betting as indicative of caution from the operator.
However, that has now been proven wrong, and Hard Rock Bet is currently available to quick-fingered Florida sports bettors who also used the app during its brief rollout in 2021.
The Legal Rollercoaster
The journey back to legality for sports betting in Florida has been anything but smooth. The Hard Rock Bet app’s relaunch comes after a series of legal victories for the Seminole Tribe, including a crucial appeals court decision that reversed a previous federal judge’s ruling.
This ruling had initially set aside the approval of the 2021 gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state, leading to the app’s shutdown nearly two years ago.
A second appeals court then rejected that decision. But plaintiffs West Flagler took the case to the Supreme Court. The highest U.S. court initially granted a temporary stay on the ruling while West Flagler formulated its case. But it then denied the request for a permanent stay during the full court proceedings.
The new but limited relaunch of the Hard Rock Bet app will help the Seminole Tribe to navigate the still- murky waters of Florida’s sports betting situation right now.
By initially allowing only previous users to bet, the tribe is cautiously testing its platform while awaiting further legal clarity. This approach also underscores the tribe’s readiness to fully capitalize on the sports betting market once all legal hurdles are cleared.
The nation’s current largest market, sports betting in New York, has lead to a total betting handle of more than $1 billion in every single month of 2023 so far. Florida sports betting has the potential to be bigger than that, so Hard Rock’s intention to launch as soon as they can, while being the only operator, is understandable.