Suspended on Saturday

Florida: Seminoles halt Hard Rock Sportsbook operations after appeals court denies emergency stay

Marcellus W. Osceola, Jr., chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Reading time 2:02 min

Sports betting in Florida has now been suspended after a federal court of appeals denied the Seminole Tribe a request for an emergency motion of stay. The tribe halted its mobile Hard Rock Sportsbook operations on Saturday.

Gary Bitner, tribal spokesman, told the Tallahassee Democrat the mobile app would “temporarily suspend operations” following the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’s decision, taken on Friday. Users attempting to access the sportsbook see an error message when trying to place bets.

The spokesman further said account balances for all current players “will be refunded as requested” and even though operations are being temporarily suspended, Seminoles “remain committed to building the best place for sports betting in Florida.”

While active bets for events starting before 11 a.m. ET on Dec. 4 worked as per normal, those for events starting after 11 a.m. on Saturday were voided and initial bet amounts returned to app wallets. “Your funds are safe & secure,” the mobile sportsbook stated. “The app will remain active for easy withdrawals.”

Sports betting in the state was first approved by an expanded compact between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminoles, which granted the tribe sole control over this form of wagering over the next 30 years. The deal was authorized by the Legislature back in May.

Under the agreement, the tribe was set to pay at least $2.5 billion over the first five years to the state not only due to the monopoly over sports betting but other benefits, including a gambling expansion to offer craps and roulette at tribal casinos.

However, this compact would soon prove to be controversial, with a number of parties going forward to protest it and take legal action against it. At the heart of the discussion was the “hub-and-spoke” model of the sports betting plan.

This allowed bettors in the state to place online wagers on sporting events anywhere within Florida, as long as these bets were processed through computer servers on tribal property. While the tribe argued this equaled betting on tribal land, a federal district court judge deemed it “a fiction” and argued it violated federal Indian gaming law last month, throwing out the compact.

Following U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruling on November 22, Seminoles quickly moved to file an emergency motion last week, asking the District of Columbia court to stay the ruling. However, this has not been the case: “Appellant has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal,” the order reads.

The tribe is now set to pursue an appeal to Friedrich’s ruling. Moreover, the tribe could negotiate a new compact with the state allowing gaming solely on Indian lands, or Florida could approve a citizens’ initiative to allow online sports betting.

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