Wanna bet, Florida? Seminole Hard Rock Tampa opens sports betting (and more)

In a lavish ceremony featuring many sports legends and tribal representatives, the Seminole Indians of Florida switched to live sports betting in Tampa on Friday. The first bet went in at midday in the live book (more on that in a moment), but there was plenty of action surrounding the Hard Rock Tampa stakes. Coinciding with the live book opening, several table game options were also opened, including roulette and craps, which were previously unavailable to Seminole customers.

Parade of sports greats on the red carpet

The Seminoles made the opening of their new offering a real spectacle, with a red carpet walk that featured many different legends from the world of sports. PGA champion John Daly, former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, University of Miami's Doug Flutie, Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and NFL legends Eddie George and Rod Woodson were in attendance for the festivities. World Wrestling Entertainment was also well represented by none other than two of the biggest names in its history – “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan (“I’m glad to be here,” Hogan told this writer, “otherwise I’d be in the middle.” in practice!”) The wrestling world made their presence even more known with “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart and Tampa’s very own Titus O’Neil also on the floor.

Themed “A New Era of Seminole Gaming,” the ceremonies honored the beginning of their new gaming options while giving the Seminole Tribe a chance to remember its past. Master of Ceremonies JP Taylor opened the ceremony by saying, “Do you know what you used to do in Vegas? Now you can do it here in Tampa!” He then passed the microphone to the members of the Seminole Tribal Council, including Chairman Marcellus Osceola, who was instrumental in negotiating the compact with the state of Florida, which was signed back in 2021.

“You've been waiting two and a half years for this, what's a few more minutes,” the chairman asked the assembled crowd, mentioning that the Tampa Seminoles, who once lived on the site where the casino now stands, had to leave their homes to make this possible for the construction of the casino. “We remember the sacrifices they made back then and we thank them for what they did.” Councilman Larry Howard also noted that it was a joint effort between the tribe and the state. “We as a tribe and we as a state are all in the same boat,” Howard said.

With the opening ceremonies behind us, the stars headed to the newly installed craps and roulette tables as well as the sports betting. Chairman Osceola grabbed the bones for the first dice roll (he won $48,500, which was donated to the Hard Rock Heals Foundation), while Flair entertained the crowd with his signature “WOOOOO!”

Opportunities of online poker?

The new offers are part of the 30-year contract that Chairman Osceola negotiated with Gov. Ron DeSantis two years ago. Originally, the Seminole Tribe opened up its new gaming options fairly quickly in 2021, including its mobile sports betting app, but that would prove problematic. A lawsuit from two other gambling companies in the state resulted in all of these new gaming options, including sports betting, being halted while the case wound its way through the courts.

Earlier this year, an appeals court decision changed the course of gambling in Florida. After a lower court ruled that the contract violated the Indian Gambling Regulation Act, a three-judge panel on the D.C. Court of Appeals unanimously overturned this decision. An attempt at one en banc The hearing before the full DC Court of Appeals was rejected, ending the legal action.

However, the Seminole Tribe took its time introducing its sports betting options. Given the events of 2021 – their mobile sports betting was only live for 34 days – the Seminoles did not begin their online operations until mid-November and their live bookings only in early December. The operations in Tampa followed the opening of the promotion at the Hard Rock in Hollywood on Thursday, where a similar ceremony was held.

There are still some questions about mobile gaming in the state of Florida, especially when it comes to online poker. Poker News Daily asked Chairman Osceola about the issue and he insisted that he wants to add online poker to his tribal offerings. “We wanted it two years ago, but couldn’t integrate it into the pact,” he explained. “We continue to negotiate with the state to try to bring online poker into the mix.” However, Chairman Osceola did not provide a timeline for such an option.

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