Hard Rock takes Florida sportsbook app offline following court ruling

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has taken its Hard Rock Sportsbook offline in the Sunshine State after a court ruled the tribe’s compact for sports betting was invalid.

This comes after the Tribe’s motion to continue offering sports betting in Florida was denied at the end of November.

Seminoles shutter Florida sportsbook app

Over the weekend, the Seminole Tribe shuttered its Hard Rock Sportsbook app following several court rulings against the legality of sports betting in Florida.

The Seminoles launched the Hard Rock Sportsbook app in Florida on 1 November 2021.

In a statement issued over Twitter, Hard Rock Sportsbook said on Saturday it had to “temporarily suspend operations.”

Hard Rock said: “Thank you for participating in our early access launch. Although we are temporarily suspending the acceptance of new bets and account deposits, we remain committed to building the best place for sports betting in Florida.

“We hope that you have enjoyed your gameday experience on the Hard Rock Sportsbook app, and we look forward to welcoming you back in the future.”

In its announcement, the operator explained that all bets placed for events after 11 am on Saturday were voided, this included futures. The app can still be used to withdraw any funds in player accounts.

What led to this?

The closure of the Hard Rock Sportsbook in Florida comes as a result of a District of Columbia court ruling which found that the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s compact with the state violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), invalidating the agreement for sports betting.

The compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida was agreed upon in April and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in May. The compact essentially granted the Seminoles, which own the Hard Rock brand, exclusive rights over online and in-person sports betting in Florida.

The Department of the Interior, led by Secretary Deb Haaland, allowed the compact to become law earlier this year.

The compact was challenged by multiple parties in the state including casino operators West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation in the District of Columbia District Court.

Under the compact, the Seminoles would be able to offer online sports betting off of tribal lands. The activity would be powered by servers located on tribal property, which could be construed as betting on tribal lands.

Under Florida’s state constitution, gambling expansion off of tribal lands requires a referendum to be legal. 

Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the compact violated the IGRA and ordered the tribe to halt its sports betting operations.

Friedrich ruled that the compact attempted to “authorize sports betting both on and off Indian lands.”

“In its own words, the Compact authorizes such betting by patrons who are ‘physically located in the State [of Florida] but not on [the Tribe’s] Indian Lands’,” Friedrich noted.

The argument that bets placed via servers located on tribal property could be considered as betting on Indian lands was thrown out. In her judgement, Friedrich said the court “cannot accept that fiction.”

Days after the ruling, the Seminole Tribe requested a temporary stay of the District Court’s decision to continue offering sports betting.

Friedrich denied the Seminole Tribe’s request to continue offering sports betting in Florida.