Hard Rock, Seminoles Expanding Empire As Florida Sports Betting Still Stalled

Written By Brant James on February 24, 2022 - Last Updated on March 25, 2022
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Sports betting in Florida remains mired in legal and political snarls that could take years to untangle. But that hasn’t dimmed interest from companies hoping to offer those bets.

The gambling company that operated the state’s first legal wagering operation for a month (until yielding to a federal order) continues to take care of other business, however.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which enjoys a virtual monopoly on gambling in the state of nearly 22 million residents, made moves inside state borders and in another lucrative market recently. Jim Allen, chairman of the Seminoles’ Hard Rock International brand, told the Associated Press that it had identified a location for a hopeful future $2 billion casino in Manhattan. Allen would not identify the spot, but this admission from the head of a typically on-message organization signaled that something is likely close.

Hard Rock plans to open a $400 million hotel in Manhattan in April, but this 446-room hotel will not offer gambling, Allen said.

“You have to have a footprint of real estate large enough to take advantage of the size of the market,” Allen told the Associated Press.

“We’re extremely proud of our hotel on 48th Street, but its footprint is just not large enough for gaming. As far as other locations, really we’re waiting on the governor and the committee that’s going to be sending out the request for proposals to see what language is in the bill as to geographic locations that would be acceptable to the state.”

New York has not officially yet passed legislation to allow up to three casinos in New York.

Hard Rock has 13 casino properties currently in operation globally. It offers sports betting through Hard Rock Digital in New Jersey and Iowa and recently announced a market-access deal with the Navajo Nation Gaming in Arizona. Its Florida app remains in limbo.

The Tribe has not yet applied to offer sports bets in New York, but a casino plan would certainly include such a request, especially considering how the coveted mobile and online market there has become the strongest in the nation after just a few weeks.

Hard Rock gains more global focus as Formula 1 races to its Florida property

Back in Florida and in its literal backyard, Hard Rock last week announced a multi-year deal to become a founding partner of the Formula 1 Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, otherwise known as the “Guitar Hotel,” will host the fifth F1 race weekend of the 2022 season from May 6-8. The race will be centered around Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. “Enhanced brand awareness” on the series’ digital channels is a key part of the deal.

“With venues in 70 countries around the world, we welcome the spotlight right here in South Florida where our flagship Guitar Hotel is located,” Allen said in a release.

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Robins signals DraftKings will make another bid for Florida sports betting spot

The spotlight will remain on Florida in terms of Florida sports betting, too. DraftKings CEO Jason Robins is keeping the beam focused after his company’s bid to put sports betting on the November ballot failed to gain the required amount of petition signatures.

DraftKings and FanDuel had combined to bankroll almost the entirety of the Florida Education Champions $35 million war chest, but the group conceded defeat in January. FEC proposed legalizing sports betting state-wide beyond a Seminole compact with Florida that was eventually ruled inconsistent with federal law and later invalidated.

Robins said the failure “is due to a variety of factors including COVID, as well as the compressed timeframe given when signature-gathering started. We are very encouraged, however, by the over one million individuals who signed petitions in less than eight months, which shows that Floridians do want the opportunity to vote on a competitive mobile sports betting market in the state.”

Robins added: “And if we were to refile, we are very confident that given the extended timeframe, we will be able to qualify for the 2024 ballot.”

Photo by Shutterstock / Brant James
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Brant James

Brant James is a veteran journalist who has twice been recognized in the Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, most recently in 2020. He's covered motorsports, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball among a myriad of others beats and written enterprise and sports business for publications including USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com.

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