Hard Rock CEO Says Florida Sports Betting Business is Doing 'Good'

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 6, 2024 08:00 PM
Hard Rock CEO Says Florida Sports Betting Business is Doing 'Good'

Even after Florida sports betting relaunched in December 2023, the speculation over the future of gambling in the Sunshine State has never once abated. 

Sure, everyone is quick to recognize that the reintroduction of sports betting in Florida is a big deal. Operations were shuddered amid the ongoing legal battle for two years. But that legal battle continues to be the primary focus of discussions and projections. Far less attention, it seems, is betting paid to the performance of sports gambling in Florida.

On some level, this is a sample size issue. Sports betting returned to the Sunshine State less than a half-year ago. That’s not necessarily enough time to assess the demand for—and results of—Florida’s gambling ecosystem.

Yet, during this period, sports betting has been up and running for some flagship events. Most notably, there was betting on the Super Bowl as well as betting on March Madness. Both are landmark gambling competitions across the United States. They should each be a good gauge of how Seminole tribe sports betting services are faring since their relaunch.

Make no mistake, the fate of sports gambling in the Sunshine State is a headlining issue. Litigation remains active at both the state and federal levels. But the performance of sports betting so far is equally important to Florida’s gambling future. If nothing else, it will speak to whether such a limited model is comparably effective to state’s with broader gaming laws.

Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen Hesitant to Make Any Sweep Declarations About the Performance of Florida Sports Betting

Jim Allen, the CEO of Hard Rock, which partners with the Seminole tribe for two casinos and helps run their Florida sports betting app, was recently asked about the results he’s seen to date. While he didn’t exactly offer any profound sentiments, he did express cautious optimism. Here’s what he had to say, via Legal Sports Report’s Mike Mazzeo:

“I would say that we’re very cautious on the scope. Because obviously there’s two pending Supreme Court cases, one with the United States, one with the state of Florida. So far those rulings have been allowing us to continue to move forward. So I think that’s No. 1. It’s very important to be respectful to the judicial process…As far as volumes, volumes are good. And literally Tom (Reeg) and I have talked about this so much. Saturating the airwaves with advertising is not good for our industry. We’ve not been overly aggressive at marketing. And we’re candidly taking one step at a time to see how the legal process settles, in whatever direction it may.” 

On the surface, this is an extremely diplomatic response. Allen intimates that Florida sports betting is performing well without getting into any specific numbers. That ambiguity speaks to the fragility of the situation. 

So, too, does his repeated nod to the litigation process. And that makes sense. Many were unsure whether Florida sports betting would even return prior to an official decision from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Legally speaking, Hard Rock sports betting is allowed to remain operational. However, relaunching amid pending litigation could be construed as disregard for the severity of the matter.

Is Limited Advertising from Hard Rock and Seminole Tribe Cause for Concern?

Advertising from online sportsbooks in the United States has become ubiquitous. You cannot take in a live sporting event or visit a sports website without some form of sports betting marketing popping up on your screen.

Mr. Allen, though, specifically went out of his way to highlight how conservative the Seminole Tribe and Hard Rock are with their advertising practices. There are two ways to interpret this restraint. It could be a sign of good faith, or it could be their attempt to fly under the radar, so as not to flaunt their operations in the face of the courts.

Remember: The Hard Rock Florida sports betting app exists on shaky footing. Currently, customers can access it from anywhere in the state. West Flagler Associations, the Florida gaming operator on the other side of the state’s gambling lawsuit, argues this violates the constitution. The gaming compact between the Seminole tribe and Florida, if you recall, allows for sports betting on tribal property only. However, the Seminoles argue that the servers running their app are located on tribal grounds. And that, they believe, makes the app an extension of tribal property.

Though that interpretation has held up in the Florida Supreme Court, SCOTUS could prove to be a different story. At the very least, it seems like the Seminole tribe along with Hard Rock doesn’t want to overstate their position. 

Would an onrush of advertisements really impact SCOTUS’ interpretation and view of the gaming compact? Perhaps not. But enough people likely use the Seminole tribe Florida sports betting app already that it’s better to be safer now rather than sorry later.

The Full Potential of Florida Sports Betting will Remain a Mystery

Many are probably wondering whether we’ll receive more frequent updates on the performance of Florida sports betting moving forward. We wouldn’t hold our breath—not until the litigation plays out in full anyway.

And yet, even then, it will be tough to measure the true potential of Florida sports betting as things presently stand.

While the Seminole tribe’s sports betting app ensures ease of access to sports gambling in the Sunshine State, it falls short of universally welcoming. The tribe brokered exclusivity within its gaming compact. That inherently limits access. Not everyone lives near a Seminole casino. More than that, not everyone wants to be beholden to one online option. 

Competition within the sports betting industry is complicated. Especially as it pertains to tribal business models. But until Florida sports betting expands operations to include more casinos—and potentially legalize other online bookies—the true potential of this market will remain something of a mystery.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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