Motion to Suspend Mobile Betting in Florida Denied

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The Hard Rock Cafe inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Zak Bennett/AFP

West Flagler Associates’ motion to suspend the relaunch of Hard Rock’s app for sports betting in Florida was denied last Friday by the State’s Supreme Court.

Seminoles Win Another Round

The Seminole’s Hard Rock sports betting app quietly relaunched earlier this month in limited release to only existing Hard Rock customers. But it wasn’t long after the Seminoles’ November Surprise that West Flagler Associates filed a motion with the Florida State Supreme Court to intervene and shut down Hard Rock’s online sports betting site.

The scenario was strikingly similar to November 2021 when the Seminoles launched mobile betting for the first time and a motion was quickly filed to have it terminated until a court could rule on the legitimacy of handing a sports betting monopoly to one entity, tribal or not.

Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia ruled against the Seminoles on November 22, 2021. Shortly after that ruling the Hard Rock Sportsbook tweeted, “Due to yesterday’s appellate court decision, the Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app will temporarily suspend accepting new bets and deposits. Player information and account funds are safe and secure, and the app will remain online for easy withdrawals via all payment methods.”

Gary Bitner, the tribe’s spokesperson, said in a statement to the Times/Herald on Saturday that “account balances for all current players will be refunded as requested.”

However, this time around the ruling went in favor of the Seminole Tribe as the Florida State Supreme Court, stated, the “Motion to Expedite Consideration of Request for All Writs Relief Pending Resolution of Petition for Writ of Quo Warranto and Suspend the Sports Betting Provisions” is hereby denied.

A spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe said: “The Seminole Tribe of Florida is pleased with this unanimous decision by the Justices of the Florida Supreme Court.”

It’s Not Over

The recent spate of rulings has favored the Seminoles and their compact with the state of Florida. However, West Flagler still has a few legal irons in the fire. The first of which is with the Supreme Court of the United States as the nation’s highest court has yet to rule on whether it will hear the case, as West Flagler has until December 11th to petition the SCOTUS.

However, early signs are not favorable for West Flagler considering the SCOTUS denied a stay request in October, even before Hard Rock relaunched on November 7th.

Another legal remedy resides with the Florida State Supreme Court despite this recent setback. That body’s most recent decision only ruled on whether to shut down the app but did not rule on the legality of it. Whether they hear the case is still unknown, which is why West Flagler still maintains a legal pulse.

Possible Impacts

But granting a sports betting monopoly to the Seminoles will have its consequences. Consumers will not be getting the best bang for their betting buck because the Hard Rock brand will have no competition and therefore no incentive to provide bigger bonuses and better odds.

This could have a chilling effect on the market and drive customers to offshore sports betting sites that offer better deals. Thus, all that tax money that should have stayed in Florida will go abroad.

“Florida is the only state of consequence where this is going on. No other state of similar or comparable size, or even moderate size, has ever granted a sports-betting monopoly to one entity,” said Daniel Wallach, a national sports gambling law expert and attorney.