(Bloomberg) -- Hard Rock International will expand its Florida-based mobile sports-wagering business statewide starting Dec. 7, extending a rollout that was delayed by court challenges.
The casino operator, owned by the Seminole tribe, first started taking mobile sports wagers in 2021 after signing a new compact with the state. Legal challenges to the agreement, which gives the tribe control of the business, prompted Hard Rock to stop taking bets just weeks later.
The company reintroduced mobile-sports betting through its Hard Rock Bet app last month on a limited basis for existing customers. Chief Executive Officer Jim Allen said legal victories in the still-pending cases gave him confidence to proceed, not just with sports betting but also with craps and roulette that will be offered for the first time at the six Hard Rock casinos in Florida starting next week.
“The United States Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court all unanimously ruled in our favor,” Allen said in an interview. “We obviously knew that was a greenlight to move forward.”
Other betting operators, such as jai alai frontons and card clubs, will also be able to offer sports wagering if they partner with the tribe, he said.
“The compact requires, and we are exceeding it tremendously, that we work on a hub-and-spoke model with the parimutuels,” Allen said. “We are doing that, and we are launching them the same day that we’re launched next Thursday in South Florida and next Friday over in Tampa.”
Hard Rock signed agreements to offer mobile sports betting with five local operators in 2021 before halting the product offering. Allen said there were about 30 parimutuel operators in the state that Hard Rock could offer sports betting in conjunction with. Those companies can partner with other brands, so long as the bets ultimately go through the tribe.
“We’re trying to work with all of them to introduce sports betting at their facilities also,” he said.
Florida, the third largest state with about 22 million residents, is one of the biggest potential markets for sports betting. The state has a number of popular professional sports teams and die-hard fans of college sports.
Florida could generate over $1.5 billion in sports-betting revenue by 2027, joining Illinois, New Jersey and Ohio among the states battling for second place behind New York, according to James Kilsby, an analyst with the market research firm Vixio.
Governor Ron DeSantis signed a compact with the tribe in 2021 that allowed Hard Rock to expand its gambling offerings on an exclusive basis in exchange for what he said would be $6 billion in revenue for the state through 2030.
Two smaller operators of betting facilities in Florida, West Flagler Associates and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., challenged the compact at the state and federal level. Under the deal, any third party that wants to take online sports bets must do so through servers operated on Seminole land.
The US Supreme Court in October declined to block a ruling by an appeals court judge that allowed the tribe to continue taking bets. Last month, the Florida Supreme Court also declined to halt sports betting from going forward.
John Sowinski, who represents a group fighting the expansion of gambling in the state, said the opponents still could see a legal victory on their appeals at the state and federal level.
Hard Rock isn’t waiting, however. The company plans a string of events at its Florida casinos next week, including appearances by actress Sofía Vergara, singer Jon Bon Jovi and DJ Tiësto, in what it calls a “new era” for gambling in the state.
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