What Florida sports betting looked like at the Daytona 500

Matt Baker, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Auto Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Chuck Floyd had never bet on a sporting event in his life until he walked under a white canopy tent Monday, pulled out his phone and put $10 on fellow Virginian Denny Hamlin to win the Daytona 500.

Floyd’s play would have seemed unthinkable a decade ago but represents another step in the ongoing evolution of Florida sports betting: He was placing a legal wager inside Daytona International Speedway, where Hamlin and his NASCAR colleagues would soon be competing in one of the state’s biggest sporting events.

“Why not bring it to the masses?” Floyd asked.

That question is legally complicated. The courts haven’t fully resolved the 30-year compact Gov. Ron DeSantis made to grant the Seminole Tribe a virtual monopoly on mobile sports betting. But the tribe relaunched its Hard Rock Bet app late last year, and NASCAR’s marquee event took its presence to another level through a new partnership between the service and the track.

Advertisements welcomed fans just inside the gate, promising they could “bet on the race from your seats” by scanning a QR code to download the Hard Rock’s app. The viewing areas and decks near the garages and mini-golf holes were part of the renamed Hard Rock Bet Fanzone. A man in a black Hard Rock Bet racing suit and helmet posed for pictures and blew kisses.

Near the entrance to the pits, you couldn’t miss the white tent Floyd visited. Digital windows that looked like kiosks displayed QR codes and flashed the latest odds — the line on Hamlin had just moved from plus-900 to plus-1,000, while you could win $160 off a $100 bet if Bubba Wallace, Ty Gibbs or Tyler Reddick finished in the top three (none did).


The area had a small but steady crowd during the buildup to the green flag. Floyd signed up with a friend. West Palm Beach’s Shane McCrink and six of his buddies sprinkled $100 bets on five different drivers before their first Daytona 500. Lake Mary’s Mark Valentino debated Hamlin vs. Joey Logano.

For Valentino, the idea of betting at the track makes practical sense. People have gambled on this race and other big events for years through office pools, bookies or sketchy offshore websites.

“Why can’t we do it here?” Valentino said. “They’re going to do it one way or the other. They’ll get their taxes out of it.”

Though the action is prohibited from carrying over to the track, the promotions continued. Richard Childress Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon both wore BetMGM logos on their sleeves.


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