Hard Rock Sportsbook continues to accept Florida online sports bets despite gaming compact dismissal
A U.S. District Court judge’s decision to throw out a 30-year gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe effectively ended both in-person and online sports betting in the state until 2023, as well as a planned gaming expansion at tribal-owned casinos.
However, as of Wednesday morning the Hard Rock Sportsbook continues to accept and process Florida online sports bets. Several readers have forwarded interactions they’ve had with Hard Rock Sportsbook representatives that resemble the one below.
— MilkMan (@TheMilk91608671) November 24, 2021
Hard Rock sportsbook continue to accept online sports bets
The Seminole Tribe filed an appeal yesterday of U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich’s decision and also requested a motion of stay. If granted the motion of stay, the tribe would be able to continue accepting online sports bets throughout the duration of the appeal process, which could take months.
However, without the motion of stay, and by continuing to accept and process bets through its Hard Rock Sportsbook app, the Seminole Tribe may be opening itself up to a host of potential legal repercussions, Daniel Wallach, principal at Wallach Legal, the country’s first sports betting-focused law firm, told Saturday Down South.
“The Seminole Tribe, with every wager taken from this point on, is potentially in violation of the Wire Act and other federal statutes. The tribe has sovereign immunity with respect to their activities on tribal land. But when they engage in off-reservation gambling activities in violation of federal and state laws, they’re violating a whole suite of federal gambling laws, including the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the Travel act, and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement act. Off tribal land, they’re not protected by sovereign immunity,” he said.
There is limited upside to the tribe continuing to take bets despite the final judgment handed down by Friedrich. It’s an enforceable, final judgment that remains in effect unless and until a higher court decides otherwise, Wallach said.
Seminole Tribe took a foreseeable risk
The Seminole Tribe’s decision to launch online sports betting on Nov. 1 prior to the U.S. District Court hearing on the gaming compact may open the tribe up to a number of legal ramifications as well. With the gaming compact thrown out, every single bet taken on the app could be considered illegal, and customers may have the right to ask that their gambling losses be refunded.
“Thousands of customers may have legitimate claims that their wagering transactions are void and their money be refunded. It’s one of the consequences of the gun jumping here. I’m not coming down definitively on who’s right, whether the money should be refunded or not. It just raises an interesting question, one that may have never arisen before in the context of domestic gambling activities,” Wallach noted.
Every online sports bet taken by the Hard Rock Sportsbook since day one are delegitimized from Friedrich’s ruling. Arguably, the Seminole Tribe should not be allowed to keep the “ill-gotten gains” they received from customer’s gambling losses. By the same token, however, they have already paid out on gambler’s successful wagers and won’t be able to reclaim those funds.
The Seminole Tribe knew the risk, though, of launching online sports betting prior to the hearing. The tribe advised the court that it would not launch online sports betting before Nov. 15 and did so anyways.
“They went into this with their eyes wide open, knowing that there was a court hearing scheduled for Nov. 5. It was a foreseeable consequence,” Wallach said.
The tribe harbors all risk from still accepting bets. Customers are beyond the scope of federal law when it comes to this scenario and should be able to withdraw funds from their Hard Rock Sportsbook accounts, he said.