It ended up being the anti-Santa.
Florida sports betting magically appeared on Nov. 1 like a jelly-bellied St. Nicholas wiggling his way out of a fireplace into a quiet living room. And then, as quickly as he showed up, he left… and he took the presents with him.
Formerly this past weekend, sports betting was once again illegal after a federal judge invalidated the compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state. The tribe asked for a stay (hitting the legal pause button, essentially) and was denied. Hard Rock Sportsbook, Florida’s only sportsbook operator, had to shut down its operations upon that denial.
Hard Rock stopped taking bets on Saturday
In a last-gasp attempt, the stay was to keep sports wagering alive in the Sunshine State. When the stay was denied, sports betting was dead.
Hard Rock Sportsbook tweeted the bad news at 10:57 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, just three minutes before it barred new bets.
Bettors who opened the Hard Rock Sportsbook app were met with a “We are temporarily suspending Florida operations” message. A “Learn more” link below the message offered details.
Immediately the suspension took into effect, the app said, and it barred:
- New bets
- New accounts
Any bets placed before 11 a.m. Eastern would settle, but those set (including futures) on or after 11 a.m. would be voided.
Bettors can enter the app and withdraw their balance at any time. However, free bets are not withdrawable.
“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,” Hard Rock noted in the app. “We hope that you have enjoyed your game day experience on the Hard R0ck Sportsbook app, and we look forward to welcoming you back in the future.”
What’s next for Florida sports betting?
Above all, the future of sports wagering in Florida is now unclear. The compact was a unicorn in the sense that the Department of Interior approved it even though it allowed sports bets off Indian land.
Now that unicorn is nothing more than a hobbled packhorse trying to shuffle its way through regulatory red tape on the way to a promised land that seems nothing more than a fairy tale.
With that in mind, the options for sports wagering are relatively limited.
- The Seminole tribe could appeal their way to the sports betting promised land, but that will be a complex battle.
- Voters could approve an initiative from FanDuel and DraftKings that would allow sports betting—first with the Seminole, then with other operators after 20 months.
- Florida lawmakers could pass a sports betting law.
None of the three options is a lock. An appeal process will take time, and success isn’t guaranteed; precedent is not on the Seminole tribe’s side. A sports betting amendment is possible, but the Seminole tribe is already making an effort to thwart FanDuel and DraftKings’ efforts. And lawmakers have proposed sports betting legislation in the past, only to see it fail.