Hard Rock’s Jim Allen Says Pari-Mutuel Interest ‘Tremendous’, As Florida Sports Betting Begins

Posted on: November 2, 2021, 02:36h. 

Last updated on: November 2, 2021, 03:53h.

Sports betting in Florida didn’t start out with a bang. Rather on Monday, the Seminole Tribe of Florida unveiled its online application with a soft launch in the Sunshine State.

Hard Rock sports betting
The guitar-shaped hotel of the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, Hard Rock’s owner, has launched mobile sports betting in the state through the Hard Rock Sportsbook. There is no word yet when retail sports betting will be unveiled. (Image: Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood)

A spokesperson told Casino.org Tuesday the tribe looks forward to announcing more information in the near future. They added current information is available at the Hard Rock Sportsbook website. The Seminole Tribe owns Hard Rock International.

With the amended compact, which the federal government approved, but with some concerns, in August, the Seminoles are the only authorized sports betting operator in Florida. DraftKings and FanDuel are behind a petition drive to get a constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot allowing other sportsbooks to compete in the state.

The rollout came as a surprise to many, as the compact between the tribe and the state of Florida still faces legal challenges in the District of Columbia federal courts. In fact, a hearing on one of the cases in the nation’s capital is scheduled for Friday.

Suits Want to Quash Federal Approval

Friday’s hearing regards a lawsuit two pari-mutuel gaming operators filed against US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the Interior Department. That’s the federal agency with oversight authority on tribal gaming.

The Magic City Casino and the Bonita Springs Poker Room have asked for two legal decisions: either a summary judgment that strikes down the federal government’s approval of the amended gaming compact, or a preliminary injunction blocking the online sports betting portion of the deal.

At the heart of the lawsuit is whether the sports betting provisions violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That federal law allows the Interior Department to authorize tribal gaming compacts that allow for gaming on tribal lands.

Federal officials have called on the case to be dismissed, and the Seminoles have asked to intervene in the case. While the tribe also seeks to have the case dismissed, attorneys for the Seminoles argue they should be included in the case. That’s in order to defend its own rights, which may not necessarily align with the federal government’s in the case.

Magic City and Bonita Springs also filed a federal lawsuit in Florida in an attempt to block state officials from enforcing the compact. However, a federal judge dismissed that case last month.

The other lawsuit in the DC federal court involves opponents of expanded gambling. They have filed a lawsuit against federal officials as well in an attempt to get the compact tossed. The plaintiffs in that case claim the amended compact is an end run around established laws requiring Florida voters to approve gaming expansion proposals.

Seminoles to Add More Sports Betting Partners

The gaming compact allows the Seminoles to offer sports betting statewide in three ways: through its online app, at sportsbooks in its casinos, and across a network of pari-mutuel operators who enter marketing agreements with the Seminoles.

Pari-mutuels would be part of a hub-and-spoke arrangement. Under the terms of the compact, pari-mutuel operators would host kiosks at their facilities connected to servers, which are on tribal land. For their effort to promote and host, participating operators would receive 60 percent of the net revenues their kiosks generate.

The compact required the tribe to establish partnerships with at least three pari-mutuel operators within 90 days of the federal signoff, or pay a slightly higher share to the state.

Last week, the Seminoles announced agreements with five pari-mutuel facilities. Hard Rock Chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen told Casino.org that is just the beginning.

When asked about the pari-mutuels’ response at the grand opening of Hard Rock’s Cincinnati casino, Allen called it “Tremendous.”

There were so many naysayers,” he said. “So many were saying that we just put that in the compact, but we weren’t going to do anything. Obviously, the direct opposite has occurred. We’ve already got five done. Frankly, we sent an RFP out to, I think, 26, 27 (operators). I would say over 20 are actively engaged, and I look forward to more of those agreements being signed in a very near future.”

Magic City and Bonita Springs have also raised questions about the pari-mutuel partnership aspect of the compact. They claim it’s anti-competitive, as they would not be able to offer sports betting on their own if they did not participate with the Seminoles. In addition, they say it would require such “significant investments” in order to participate that it makes profitability uncertain.