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Worth the wait

After two years of legal battles, the state of Florida will finally get sports betting. On Wednesday, the Seminole Tribe of Florida announced that it will launch “A New Era in Florida Gaming” in December as it begins to offer craps, roulette, and sports betting at its six casinos.

“The Seminole Tribe thanks the State of Florida, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Justice for defending our Compact. By working together, the Tribe, the State and the federal government achieved a historic legal victory,” said Marcellus Osceola Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, in a statement.

The rollout of craps, roulette, and retail sports betting will begin on December 7 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood, and Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. The next day, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa will get the games. Then, on Monday, December 11, the new games will launch at Seminole Casino Immokalee and Seminole Brighton Casino.

There is no word on when online/mobile sports betting will get up and running, but one would assume that it will be as soon as possible, as the vast majority of sports betting handle in other states comes from online rather than in-person.

Two-year struggle

In 2021, the Seminole Tribe inked a new 30-year gaming compact with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, greatly expanding gambling in the state and giving the tribe exclusive rights to sports betting, both retail and online.

Competitors filed a lawsuit, arguing that the “hub and spoke” model violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). In this model, the gaming servers would be on sovereign tribal land, but most of the actual wagering would not, instead taking place all of the state on people’s mobile phones or computers, or at retail outlets not on tribal land. Opponents contended that because the actual wagering is not on tribal land, it is not legal, whereas the Seminoles believe that because the servers – where the bets “technically” happen – are on sovereign land, everything is fine.

The tribe launched Hard Rock Bet in November 2021, but it was up for less than a month because of the lawsuit.

During the last couple years, one court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, then that ruling was overturned, and just last week, the US Supreme Court rejected an emergency effort to block the Seminole/Florida compact, opening the door for the tribe to finally launch sports betting and other casino games.

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