Sports Betting Is Live In Florida After The Most Low-Key Launch Ever

Written By J.R. Duren on November 1, 2021

It was like Santa Claus showing up at Thanksgiving. We didn’t expect it, but we’re not complaining. Florida online sports betting has arrived unexpectedly. Seemingly out of nowhere, announcements started trickling out Monday: the Hard Rock Digital’s (HRD) Hard Rock Sportsbook app launched in Florida.

An actual mobile sports betting app was live. In Florida. With no warning. It was another chapter in what has turned out to be a wild 2021 for sports betting Florida.

What Is Happening With Florida Hard Rock Sportsbook App?

Sometime in the first half of Monday, Nov. 1, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and HRD launched their sports betting app. Users had to go to the operator’s website, www.hardrocksportsbook.com, to download the app. The download process required a few unorthodox steps; a far clunkier process than downloading an app from the Apple App Store or Google Play store.

HRD is calling the launch an “early access launch.” Presumably, although not definitively, the app will eventually be available in app stores.

The app’s initial promotion is a $100 risk-free-bet sign-up offer, but stay tuned to TheLines.com for more sign-up promos for Florida sports betting in the near future.

Once open, the app provides users with all the basic fare:

Over/under, spread, parlays, and prop bets were offered for the Giants-Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

Florida Hard Rock Sportsbook Android App Issues

TheLines tested the Android version of the app and found it to be buggy. It crashed multiple times when switching between the account, bets-placed, and betting tabs.

Hard Rock Sportsbook App six-month saga

In the spring, there were rumors in Florida that Gov. Ron DeSantis was working closed-door sports betting deals. His actions came amid a flurry of sports-betting bills that popped up in Tallahassee. The activity was somewhat idealistic, as many within the state could never have imagined sports betting launching in Florida today, let alone next year.

The traditionally conservative state seemed dead-set against sports betting. And perhaps it was this conservative contingent that made a closed-door negotiation necessary for DeSantis. While his constituents may have been skeptical about sports betting, the state’s coffers weren’t. Sports betting produces tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue for states. New Jersey earned $49.4 million in sports-betting tax revenue in 2020, and Pennsylvania earned $38.7 million in 2020.

No matter the motive, DeSantis was able to work out a new “compact” with the Seminole that afforded the tribe exclusivity over sports betting. In return, the tribe will pay the state at least $2.5 billion over the next five years. That’s no small fee, considering states that don’t limit sports betting to tribes usually get a few million (at best) for sports betting licenses.

And while the compacted with the Seminole was a coup, it wasn’t a lock. The compact had to go to the Department of the Interior (DOI) to undergo a 45-day review period. In that time, the DOI picked apart the compact to ensure it was compliant with the Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA), the landmark legislation that regulated gaming on Native American land.

What made the compact a somewhat dubious proposition is that it used a hub-and-spoke model. Mobile bets are processed on Seminole land (the hub) even though they’re made all across the state on mobile phones (spokes). Turns out the DOI didn’t mind the hub-and-spoke; it approved the compact after the review period. Technically, they stayed silent and, by rule, the compact passed.

Shortly after that approval, a pair of pari-mutuel facilities brought a lawsuit against the Seminole to stop the tribe’s sports betting launch this month. The lawsuit ended in October; the Seminole prevailed.

The Florida mobile sports betting story isn’t over yet

Not to be lost in the odd-but-welcomed launch is that DraftKings and FanDuel are pushing to get a sports betting amendment on the 2022 ballot.

The duo submitted an initiative to the Florida Division of Elections earlier this year and plunked down $20 million to launch the campaign. Operating under the name “Florida Education Champions,” the two companies sent out petitions across the state in hopes of gaining enough signatures to get on next year’s ballot.

Should the initiative make the ballot and win voter approval (a long shot, it seems, now that sports betting is already here), mobile sports betting would be non-restrictive after 20 months. Operators with enough experience in other states would be allowed to launch and run their own operation apart from the Seminole tribe.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has written for a wide variety of publications, both online and print, including Snooth, the Villages Daily Sun, Bespoke Post, Our Amazing Norway, and Barcelona Metropolitan. He has thrice been recognized as a winner of the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest.

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