Featured in this article:
  • A federal appellate court denied the Seminole Tribe's request for a stay.
  • The Hard Rock SportsBook App has temporarily suspended operations.
  • Earlier bets will be settled and players can withdraw their funds.

4 Minute Read

It is no slam-dunk that regulated Florida sports betting will come back soon.

Federal courts have halted Florida’s month-old sports betting regime. After being denied an appellate stay, the Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock SportsBook app has been taken down.

For now, regulated betting has stopped throughout the Sunshine State. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the Tribe’s request for a stay pending resolution of their appeal.

Why Is the Hard Rock SportsBook App Shutting Down?

Regulated sports betting came to Florida through a new 30-year gaming compact between the state government and the Seminole Tribe. The compact created a hub-and-spoke system for sportsbooks, allowing online and mobile wagers from anywhere in Florida. All bets would be routed and settled through servers on Seminole property.

tom brady buccaneers nfl

Bucs fans won’t be able to place regulated bets on the team’s playoff drive for now.

However, federal law requires all tribal gaming to occur on tribal land. Whether the new compact satisfied the provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was challenged in court.

Though the Department of the Interior, which has jurisdiction over tribal gaming nationwide, allowed the new compact to enter into force. But they did not formally approve the measure and lawyers for the government refused to take a position on the legality of hub-and-spoke tribal sportsbooks.

Operators of Florida card rooms and pari-mutuel betting shops challenged the new compact in court on IGRA grounds. A District Court judge first ruled the entire compact illegal and then denied the Seminole Tribe a stay of her ruling pending appeal.

Now, the appellate court has also denied the Tribe’s request for a stay.

What Happens Now for Florida Sports Betting?

Despite the losses at the District Court level, the Seminole Tribe obstinately kept the Hard Rock SportsBook app up and running. However, the appellate court’s decision has forced their hand, and the app is no longer accepting bets or new player registrations.

Magic City Casino

Magic City Casino is suing to stop Florida’s new sports betting law. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

The three-judge panel split two to one in denying the Seminole’s a stay. The judges did not explain themselves in a detailed reasoning, but that is not an unusual procedure.

Essentially, the panel of appellate justices determined that the Seminole Tribe is unlikely to ultimately succeed on its appeal. This means the entire Florida-Seminole gaming compact is in significant jeopardy.

If you placed a wager on the Hard Rock SportsBook app in Florida before it was shut down, the bet will be settled. All current players will be given the opportunity to withdraw their balance from the betting app.

When Will Florida Sportsbooks Be Operational Again?

Spokespeople for the Seminole Tribe are calling this a temporary shutdown. Their plan is to have the app open and working again in the future.

However, it does not appear likely that the new compact will survive continued legal scrutiny. Hub-and-spoke tribal sports betting may be ruled incompatible with the IGRA, even if the case is taken all the way to the Supreme Court.

Florida and the Seminole Tribe will be left with few options besides negotiating a new compact. Considering this current iteration resolved a decade of acrimony between the Tribe and the state government, those discussions will be difficult. The Seminole Tribe will zealously try to protect its statewide gambling exclusivity.

But such negotiations will take time. And it is possible that Florida voters will make a new compact nearly moot this November. Multiple gambling industry players are pushing petition drives for ballot initiatives that would redefine Florida sports betting law.

Were these measures approved by voters, gambling exclusivity for the Seminoles may vanish. And multiple commercial online and mobile sportsbooks could launch statewide.

Still, the Seminole Tribe would vigorously challenge this outcome in court. In the end, this current legal drama may just be the tip of the iceberg for Florida sports betting.

Dave Consolazio

Dave Consolazio has been passionate about writing and sports journalism since his high school years. He has a degree in Broadcast Journalism from USC where he worked with the school's radio and television stations. His work has been featured in SportsbookReview, Sports Illustrated and SB Nation. Dave's experience ranges across multiple fields in the gambling industry. You can find his sports, casino, and poker articles in GambleOnline.co.

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