Despite a pending federal lawsuit against the sports betting portion of the state’s new gaming compact, Florida’s Seminole Tribe launched its online sports betting market Monday.
There was no announcement on social media, there was no real publicity around the launch, and according to a report from a local Fox affiliate, a spokesperson for the tribe even declined to comment on the launch.
But nonetheless, sports bettors in the Sunshine State can now place wagers on sporting events from their mobile devices or on their computer via the Seminoles’ Hard Rock Sportsbook. The ownership group of two pari-mutuel facilities is suing the federal government over the market’s “hub-and-spoke” model laid out in the new 30-year agreement between the state and the tribe.
The model lets the tribe act as the centerpiece of the state’s entire sports betting operation and allows them to be the sole provider of online sports betting. Any other pari-mutuel facility that wants to open a brick-and-mortar sportsbook must be a contracted vendor of the tribe. The Seminoles will receive 40% of gross revenue generated from those sportsbooks and pari-mutuels will keep the remaining 60% tax-free.
Last week, the tribe announced it entered partnerships with the Palm Beach Kennel Club; Hialeah Park Casino; Ocala Gainesville Poker and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.; Tampa Bay Downs; and TGT Poker & Racebook in Tampa for sports betting operations.
Even though the tribe launched its online sportsbook a few days ago, sports betting giants DraftKings and FanDuel are funding efforts to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2022 which would legalize sports betting at professional sports arenas, pari-mutuel facilities, and other online platforms.
Last June, the companies donated $10 million each to a PAC dubbed Florida Education Champions to help start a petition drive to get the initiative on the ballot next year. It needs 891,589 signatures from registered Florida voters and another 222,898 signatures to have the Florida Supreme Court review the proposed wording of the initiative for voters to have the opportunity to make the decision next election cycle.
The Seminoles, however, are funding efforts to block that initiative, as well as others that would allow for casino expansion in the state.
The tribe sunk about $20 million into a campaign, known as plebiscite, that is using consultants to circulate a petition asking voters to “support the Seminole compact and billions in new revenue for the people of Florida” and is also running ad campaigns to sway voters’ opinion against those initiatives.
The campaign seems to be working thus far as the Florida Education Champions committee only submitted 66,769 signatures to the state thus far.