Hard Rock Sportsbook suspends sports betting app in Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis and Marcellus Osceola Jr., president of the Seminole Tribe, are holding the gaming pact they signed in April.

Governor Ron DeSantis and Marcellus Osceola Jr., president of the Seminole Tribe, are holding the gaming pact they signed in April.


The Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock Sportsbook announced on Saturday morning that it was immediately suspending operations in Florida following an appeals court ruling that denied its request to pursue online sports betting as it was pursuing an appeal from a lower court decision.

“Due to the court of appeal ruling yesterday, the Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app will temporarily suspend the acceptance of new bets and deposits,” said the Hard Rock Sportsbook said on Twitter. “Player information and account funds are safe and secure, and the app will stay online for easy withdrawals via all payment methods. ”

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

The Hard Rock Sportsbook said the suspension includes the acceptance of all new bets, new accounts and new deposits, but “all active bets beginning before 11 a.m. ET on December 4, 2021 will proceed and settle depending on the outcome of the event normally “.

However, all bets made after this time “will be void and the original bet amounts will be returned to your application portfolio. This includes all future bets.

“Your funds are safe and secure,” the company added. “The app will remain active for easy withdrawals.”

The company added that free bets will not be allowed to be withdrawn, but that Hard Rock Sportsbook “will maintain a number of free bets on your account, which will be available again if HardRock Sportsbook starts accepting new bets.”

However, it may be months before the tribe is allowed to resume sports betting as the legal challenge unfolds in court.

Two lawsuits challenging the legality of the pact were brought by West Flagler Associates, the owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room, and a group of plaintiffs including No Casinos and Miami businessmen Armando Codina and Norman Braman.

After the lawsuits were filed, however, the tribe quietly opened what they called their “early access launch” of their sports betting app on November 1, which allowed anyone over 21 in Florida places and collects online bets on sporting events via the internet using the Hard Rock Sportsbook app from anywhere in Florida.

On November 22, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the District of Columbia, U.S. District Court struck down the 30-year, multibillion-dollar gambling agreement with the state, known as the Compact, ruling that it violated Indian federal law on Games.

As part of the pact, the tribe agreed to pay the state at least $ 2.5 billion over the first five years in return for granting a monopoly on sports betting in the state and authorization to add roulette and craps to its casino operations.

To get around a state law that prohibits any expansion of the game without voter approval unless it is licensed as a tribal game, the governor and the tribe agreed to give the tribe control over betting sports online throughout the state by passing all bets through the tribe’s computer servers. . But the court said the provision violated India’s federal gambling law.

Friedrich first rejected a stay, or temporary halt, of his own decision last week, and on Friday the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in a 2-1 order by curiam that the tribe’s emergency request for a stay be dismissed because he “failed to meet the strict requirements of a stay pending appeal.”

The tribe had argued that failure to stay the decision would cause “irreparable damage” to the sovereignty and economic interests of the Seminol tribe. He told the court that shutting down its sports betting operations would jeopardize hundreds of jobs for employees and salespeople already hired to work on gambling operations.

The tribe made two revenue sharing payments of $ 37.5 million to the state under the pact, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis and approved by the Florida legislature in May. He told the court he also hired hundreds of employees and spent more than $ 25 million to develop the online sportsbook.

While pursuing its request for a temporary stay of Friedrich’s decision, Hard Rock Sportsbook continued to operate the online application.

Meanwhile, West Flagler Associates, the owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs poker room who brought the lawsuit, accused the tribe of being “dishonest with the court over their alleged irreparable harm.”

“While telling the court that in the absence of an emergency stay, he” risks losing “tens of millions of income, he tells his clients (more than a week after the court’s decision to district) that its illegal online sports games “remain fully open to all players” and “there is no cause for concern,” “the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote.

The appeals court must now schedule a hearing on the merits of the case. The tribe said they have the backing of the US Department of Justice, which will defend the Home Department’s position on the legality of the pact.

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida, the state of Florida, and the United States have all taken the position that the 2021 pact is legal,” Bitner said.

He said the tribe would work with the US Department of Justice “to aggressively defend the validity of the 2021 pact before the appeals court, which has yet to rule on the merits of the 2021 pact.”

Mary Ellen Klas can be contacted at meklas@miamiherald.com and @MaryEllenKlas

This story was originally published December 4, 2021 at 12:23 pm.

Mary Ellen Klas is the state capitol bureau chief for the Miami Herald, where she covers government and politics and focuses on investigative and accountability reporting. In 2018-2019, Mary Ellen was Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and was named 2019 Murrey Marder Nieman Fellow in Surveillance Journalism. In 2018, she won the Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Herald’s Statehouse office is a joint operation with the Tampa Bay Times Statehouse staff. Please support his work with a digital subscription. You can reach her at meklas@miamiherald.com and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas.

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