Florida to Legalize Sports Betting, But Legal Challenges Expected

FloridaLegal Florida Senate passes sports betting bill
May 19, 2021 09:05Tim Ronaldson

After already passing many hurdles, sports betting in Florida seems to be on the fast-track for approval.

The Florida Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill by a vote of 38-1 earlier this week, and the state House is expected to pass it easily as well.

This was no easy feat for Florida, as the state had to make an arrangement with the Seminole Tribe to offer sports betting in the state. Other states such as Connecticut have formed similar deals, but in slightly varied ways.

With the legislative part of the process looking to be completed this week, it would seem that legal sports betting could be on the horizon in Florida. But, despite the bill being signed, sealed and delivered as early as next week, it still could face significant legal hurdles.

The Agreement with the Seminole Tribe

Before the Florida Legislature could even vote on a proposed sports betting bill, an agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe had to be struck. That happened recently, as officials with the tribe agreed on the framework of a deal with Governor Ron DeSantis.

As part of that agreement, the Seminole Tribe will control all sports betting in Florida. The deal also allows them to offer casino table games such as roulette and craps at the casinos it's already running.

In addition, the Seminole Tribe could also decide to build three more casinos on their Hollywood reservation.

The deal will initially last for 30 years. The state loves the deal because the Seminole Tribe will be making payments of at least $500 million every year to the state. Over 30 years, that's a total of at least $15 billion.

The tribe has to share 13.75% of all sports betting revenue with Florida, as long as the tribe signs sports betting contracts with at least three pari-mutuel sportsbook operators in three months. If they don't meet that deadline, the state would get an additional 2% of the revenue.

Sportsbook Operators Already Interested in Florida

Some of the most well-known sportsbook operators have expressed significant interest in launching in Florida once everything is officially in place.

Jim Allen, the CEO of Seminole Gaming, said both FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook have submitted a proposal to work with the tribe in Florida. "Many of the other companies," including Barstool Sportsbook, have had meetings with Allen already, too.

Florida is likely to be a very attractive state to sportsbook operators because of all the residents who live there -- as well as all the people who travel to Florida for vacation.

In fact, there are many people who live in the colder north who travel to Florida and stay for multiple months during the winter. This provides another huge potential group of people who could become customers.

Legal Challenges Still Expected

Despite the agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe, lawmakers are still expecting legal challenges to be filed against the sports betting deal once the Florida Legislature passes it.

One group, called No Casinos, for example, says that a 2018 constitutional amendment says that only voters can approve a sports betting law in Florida. The other side of the argument is that sports betting can be legalized in Florida as long as the Seminole Tribe handles the operation.

This has led many lawmakers in the state to expect lawsuits once the Legislature officially passes the bill. Wilton Simpson, the president of the Florida Senate, said:

"According to the folks who did not want it to pass, there's a 100% possibility that it will end up in a court somewhere."

This means that it won't be smooth sailing for sports betting in Florida, even once it's been passed into law.

If the bill does end up holding up in court in a timely manner, the plan is for Florida to start offering legal sports betting on October 15. Only people who are 21 years and older will be allowed to gamble on sports betting in Florida.

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Tim Ronaldson
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Tim Ronaldson is a writer, blogger and marketer. He loves all things sports, especially covering the sports betting industry. He joined the AmericaGambles Team 2020 and is mainly responsible for columns and extensive reportage articles.
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