The Seminole Tribe of Florida holds all the cards regarding sports betting in the Sunshine State.
When it comes to online sports betting in Florida, the Seminole Tribe is the only option. As a result, the Seminole Tribe’s corporate umbrella, Hard Rock International, could bolster its operations in other states.
Until last week, Florida was an untapped market. By population, it’s the third-largest state in the U.S., with more than 22.2 million people. It doesn’t hurt that a large chunk of them are sports fans.
Now that the Seminoles can offer sports betting to Floridians, the tribe has a ton of additional revenue. But how will they use that money? It’s certainly an opportunity to make some moves with other US markets it operates in.
Florida sports betting launches after tribe wins legal battle
In April 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the tribe agreed to a new gaming compact. The deal allowed the tribe to offer retail and online sports betting. Additionally, the agreement allowed the tribe to offer certain Class III games like craps and roulette at their six Florida casinos.
Furthermore, the “hub-and-spoke” sports betting model gave a ton of power to the tribe. They are the only operator allowed in the state’s online sports betting market. And pari-mutuels can only operate a brick-and-mortar sportsbook if they do so as a contracted vendor of the tribe.
The ownership group of two Florida pari-mutuels, West Flagler Associates, filed lawsuits against the compact, resulting in a multi-year legal battle.
Despite the legal challenges, the tribe launched its online sportsbook in November 2021. But just three weeks later, a U.S. district court judge ruled the deal violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
But the federal government, which approved the compact, and the tribe appealed the ruling to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The three parties spent 2022 appealing the decision through filings with the court. It culminated with oral arguments in December.
Last June, the three-judge panel unanimously voted to overturn the district court decision. Consequently, the 2021 Florida gaming compact was once again the law of the land, and it was only a matter of time before the tribe re-instituted sports betting.
At the start of November, the Seminoles announced they would open brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and expanded table game options in early December. But last week, without notice, the tibe re-launched its online sportsbook.
Seminole Tribe could generate an extra $1 billion in annual revenue for the tribe
The tribe owns and operates six casinos in the state, including Hard Rock branded luxury properties in Tampa and Hollywood. Additional operators, like DraftKings and FanDuel, will likely look to get in on the action.
However, they only have two options to do so.
- They can directly partner with the tribe under shared branding on the Hard Rock Digital platform.
- A ballot initiative passes allowing other online sportsbooks into the state.
The former seems unlikely. The latter failed in 2022, but it seems more likely the larger operators would try funding another initiative before they partner with the Seminoles.
For now, Hard Rock Bet Florida is the only option for online sports betting. The online sportsbook is available to players with a Seminole Rewards loyalty number and anyone who created an account during its brief three-week stint in 2021.
Under the terms of the compact, sports wagering in Florida could reach $8 billion to $12 billion annually. Those bets could turn into as much as $1 billion in annual revenue for the tribe and its partners.
The tribe’s Flordia casinos are already bringing in billions in revenue every year. An additional $1 billion can be used to further the tribe’s reach in other states.
Hard Rock Sportsbook could see more promotional spending in other US markets
Right now, Hard Rock Bet Sportsbook is live in six states.
- New Jersey
The site isn’t dominating in any of those markets the way it will in Florida. However, the additional revenue that the Florida launch will bring could help the site make some moves in those other states.
For example, Hard Rock Bet launched in Ohio in January at the start of the state’s legal sports betting market. In nine months, the site ranks seventh in the state in both handle and revenue. The operation handled $88.9 million in wagers, generating revenue of $9.7 million.
Currently, there is a pretty wide gap between sixth and seventh in the market. Ohio could be a state the Seminole Tribe would want a larger footprint in. They can do that with more promotional spending in the state.
So far, the tribe has spent just over $7.1 million in promotional dollars in Ohio. For context, bet365, which ranks fourth in Ohio in lifetime handle and revenue, spent over $8.1 million on promotion in September alone.
After the Florida sports betting launch, Ohio will be the second biggest market Hard Rock Bet Sportsbook will be operating in. It’s safe to assume that more focus will be placed on Ohio once there is more money to go around.
If even 10% of that additional $1 billion the Seminole Tribe may get from Florida sports betting is put towards promotional material in Ohio, that would lead to over $8.3 million more promotional dollars a month.
It will be interesting to see exactly where the tribe puts the money that is on the way. It’s safe to assume a lot of it will go to promotions in those six other states Hard Rock Bet operates in.