Could Latest Hard Rock Digital Platform Help Florida Legalize Sports Betting?

Written By JR Duren on December 21, 2020 - Last Updated on January 21, 2021

The path to sports betting may be getting clearer in Florida.

Last week, Hard Rock International announced the launch of Hard Rock Digital, an interactive gaming and sports betting platform. Hard Rock Digital will be exclusive to the Hard Rock brand and Florida-based Seminole Gaming.

“With the launch of Hard Rock Digital, we are broadening our digital business which enhances consumer experiences and offerings across our interactive gaming and sportsbook offerings,” Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, said in a press release.

“Hard Rock Digital also intends to pursue strategic branding and distribution opportunities both within the U.S. and globally.  In the U.S. alone, the potential future market size is estimated at $7 billion for sports betting and $14 billion for online gaming.”

While Florida still lacks legal sports betting, this launch could be a precursor for regulated wagering in the state.

Details about Hard Rock Digital

The limited information available about Hard Rock’s digital venture indicates that it will leverage the data of more than 130 million customers to “turn up the volume” on sports betting.

That information, coupled with Allen’s comments about Hard Rock’s desire to “pursue strategic branding” and the company’s “distribution opportunities,” seems to indicate Hard Rock Digital will be a wide-ranging sports betting platform that will integrate Hard Rock’s 250 casinos and hotels across 76 countries.

Hard Rock said the digital platform’s managers will be “industry leaders.” Among the top-level executives: Rafi Ashkenazi, Marlon Goldstein and Matt Primeaux. All three have experience with prominent betting companies, such as Playtech, The Stars Group and FOX Bet.

Funding for the venture will come from Seminole Gaming, Hard Rock International and some of its partners.

What does this mean for Florida sports betting?

Sports betting is not legal in Florida. However, that doesn’t mean organizations can’t take steps toward a future where Floridians can place bets on their favorite sports.

Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed John Davis as secretary of the Florida Lottery. Davis’ resume pegged him as a community and commerce leader instead of a sports betting maven. But he was a starting defensive back for the Florida State Seminoles. His sports background could come into play if, like in other states, the lottery oversaw sports betting.

As for Seminole Gaming, the partnership is one that points pretty strongly to a future of sports betting in Florida. Investment in a digital platform focused on sports betting isn’t a definitive statement in support of sports betting. But it’s hard not to speculate.

What makes the partnership even more interesting is that Seminole Gaming owns the state’s premier casinos and has been described by the South Florida Sun Sentinel as a “key player” in sports betting discussions.

In 2019, the tribe worked with Sen. Wilton Simpson to create a 31-year agreement that would allow it to operate sports betting. However, DeSantis rejected the agreement.

Whatever the future holds for sports betting in the Sunshine State, Seminole Gaming’s new partnership with Hard Rock seems like it will play a role—and perhaps an influential one.

Photo by AP / Bizuayehu Tesfaye
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JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey gambling beats for Catena Media. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun. Duren is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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