Will Sports Betting Be OK’d In Florida By Football Season?

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Will Sports Betting Be OK’d In Florida By Football Season?
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A federal court ruling last Friday that could restart mobile sports betting in Florida has many wondering when legal wagering can begin again in the Sunshine State.

By some estimates, the start date could be as early this season's college and NFL football games. Others predict sports betting won’t get the go-ahead in Florida until a year from now at the earliest.

Football Season Underway Next Month

If sports wagering is revived in Florida in time for football season, bettors in the Sunshine State could be legally putting money on games in a little more than a month.

The NCAA schedule of major games kicks off Aug. 26 with several matchups, including Hawaii at Vanderbilt, Navy vs. Notre Dame in Dublin, Ireland, and San Jose State at USC.

The first regular-season NFL game is Sept. 7, a Thursday night contest between the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and visiting Detroit Lions.

Bob Jarvis, a Florida attorney and law professor, told Bookies.com last week that the Seminole Tribe of Florida might have a betting app up and running very soon. The tribe briefly had a Hard Rock mobile app available statewide in late 2021 before it was discontinued in a legal dispute.

"I expect The Seminoles to relaunch their app and start taking in-person bets in the next month or so (and certainly before the start of the college and NFL season),” said Jarvis, a professor at the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law.

Legal Feud Could Delay Sports Betting

Others doubt sports betting will start up again soon in Florida. This faction sees a long legal struggle ahead and possibly the need for a public vote.

John Sowinski, spokesperson for No Casinos, told the Tampa Bay Times that the June 30 legal action “will not be the final word on this issue.”

“The will of the people will be respected, and the Florida Constitution requires that Florida voters have the final word on gambling authorization,” he said.

The sports betting issue arose again last week when a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a previous federal court decision that blocked the Seminole Tribe’s mobile app in Florida.

In November 2021, Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia determined the a gaming deal between the tribe and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, now a presidential candidate, is invalid. 

Among other arguments, Friedrich said it is a fiction to claim that statewide mobile sports betting technically was taking place on tribal lands, as required, since that’s where the computer servers were located.

Florida attorney and sports betting legal expert Daniel Wallach told the Tampa Bay Times he predicts the June 30 ruling will lead to additional lawsuits, now that two federal courts have issued competing rulings over whether federal tribal gaming laws allow online betting.

“It sets up a U.S. Supreme Court battle over the breadth and scope of (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act),” he said.

Even among those eager to get the tribe’s app off the ground again, this sort of legal wrangling is seen as a roadblock that could delay legal sports betting in Florida at least until the second half of 2024.

Other States See Opportunity In Florida Ruling

Currently, no one can bet legally on sports in the three most-populated states — California, Texas and Florida. The largest state with legal, live sports betting is New York.

In the recent past, publicly traded casino and sports betting companies, including Las Vegas Sands Corp., FanDuel and DraftKings, have spent millions combined in attempting, unsuccessfully, to legalize commercial gaming in California, Texas and Florida.

Now, Wallach and Jarvis are among other legal experts who contend that the June 30 federal ruling in the Florida case could prompt tribes in other states to seek compacts that would let them operate online gaming.

“This would dramatically alter the national gaming landscape because it will now be the blueprint for online sports betting and internet gaming across the country,” Wallach said. “They will be able to control the most lucrative forms of gaming on a statewide basis — to the detriment of non-tribal gaming operators.”

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Larry Henry

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