Sports betting in Florida could start as early as October 2021. Or after a voter referendum in 2022. Or not at all if the matter ends up mired in litigation.
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State lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe during a special session in May 2021. The legislation was signed later in the month by Gov. Ron DeSantis and then submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
At issue is whether the new compact will receive federal approval, withstand already-filed legal challenges that the FL online sportsbooks provision violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (wagers would be placed off-reservation), and if sports betting can be authorized without a voter referendum. A constitutional amendment approved in 2018 prohibits any expansion of casino gambling in Florida unless approved by voters. Proponents say that Amendment 3 does not apply to sports betting.
The 30-year deal with the Seminoles guarantees the state a minimum of $2.5 billion over the first five years. In return, the tribe would control sports betting in the state and serve as the hub for online sports wagering in Florida, with all online bets processed through computer servers located on tribal lands.
The compact allows for the Seminoles to contract with other sportsbook brands and the state’s pari-mutuel operators, which would receive 60% of online sportsbooks' revenue, the rest going to the tribe.
The Seminoles, who own six Hard Rock Casinos in the state, would also be permitted to add craps, roulette and other table games previously not allowed, and build three additional casinos within its south Florida reservations.
While the compact is a wagering boon for the Seminole Tribe, other national sportsbook operators are less enamored with it.
A month after DeSantis signed the legislation and the amended compact was submitted for federal approval, a group backed by the nation’s two largest sports betting platforms, DraftKings and FanDuel, filed a proposed 2022 constitutional amendment that would legalize sports betting in Florida through online platforms, pari-mutuel operators and sports venues. Tax revenue would be earmarked for the state’s public education system. A Seminole Tribe spokesperson called the proposed amendment “a political Hail Mary from out-of-state corporations.’’
Adding to the drama is the legality of the state’s new compact with the Seminoles, and whether it violates Amendment 3, which in 2018 was approved by more than 70% of Florida voters. The amendment gives voters (not legislators) the exclusive right to authorize the expansion of casino gambling. The legislation takes the position that sports betting is not casino gambling and therefore not impacted by the language in the amendment
The courts are likely to have the final say.
1988: National Indian Regulatory Gaming Act is passed. Seminole Tribe begins construction of casinos on Hollywood, Tampa and Immokalee reservations.
2004: After several defeats, a referendum to allow slot machines at existing Miami-Dade and Broward County gambling facilities is narrowly approved.
2010: State and Seminole Tribe sign gaming compact after 20 years of negotiations.
2018: Voters approve Amendment 3, which gives voters the right to authorize and expand FL casino gambling. It’s unclear if the amendment currently applies to sports betting.
2019: Seminole Tribe stops making annual $350 million casino payments to the state, due to dispute over its exclusive right to offer specific games, which some pari-mutuel facilities are offering.
April 2021: Gov. Ron DeSantis announces a comprehensive new gaming compact with Seminoles that would legalize online and retail sports betting in Florida and grant the tribe exclusive rights. The agreement also allows the Seminoles to offer table games at their casinos.
May 2021: Florida lawmakers overwhelmingly approve amended gaming compact during a special session. DeSantis signs the new compact.
June 2021: Political committee Florida Education Champions, backed by DraftKings and FanDuel, among others, files proposed 2022 constitutional amendment that would legalize statewide online sports betting and in-person wagering at Florida sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities. Nearly 900,000 valid petition signatures are needed.
July 2021: A Florida pari-mutuel facility and a poker room file joint lawsuit claiming online sports betting component of state’s amended compact with Seminoles violates Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
October 15, 2021: The date Florida sports betting could launch if compact with Seminole Tribe receives federal approval and survives legal challenges.
For all forms of Florida sports betting, the Seminole Tribe must comply with the rules and regulations adopted by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
The State Compliance Agency (SCA) is authorized to utilize dispute resolution provisions if it believes the Seminole Tribe has failed in any way to comply with the requirement for sports wagering.
The new compact establishes a five-member Florida Gaming Commission which will not oversee gambling operations by the Seminole Tribe, but instead focus on pari-mutuels and other gambling in the state that takes place outside of tribal lands.
Hard Rock is owned by the Seminole Tribe and will be the biggest beneficiary if the state’s new gaming compact is implemented. The compact gives Hard Rock sportsbook control of sports betting rights in the state, along with additional table games at its existing casinos. While known primarily for its casino offerings, Hard Rock has online sportsbook licenses in New Jersey, Iowa and Virginia and is expanding in the national sports wagering marketplace.
One of the most popular retail and online wagering platforms in the U.S. and a major player in nearly every state with legal sports betting. Florida’s amended compact with the Seminole Tribe would make DraftKings sports a minor player (or not one at all) in one of the nation’s most lucrative sports betting markets. Thus, the company is among the backers of a ballot initiative that would let voters decide the future of Florida sports betting in 2022.
Is in the same situation in Florida as rival DraftKings, would prefer to be a major sportsbook provider in the state, and is backing a 2022 sports betting amendment. The FanDuel betting site offers one of the most player-friendly sports betting apps and a wide range of promotions. Like DraftKings, FanDuel is already a dominant daily fantasy sports provider in Florida and across the U.S.
The iconic gambling name recently completed its purchase of global sports betting giant William Hill. Caesars Sportsbook seems a logical player to join the Florida online sportsbooks marketplace. It owns and operates Isle Casino Pompano Park, a harness track and racino in Broward County.
The online brand of Churchill Downs Inc., which is known more for its pari-mutuel horse racing business, but also has growing digital casino and sportsbook operations. Churchill Downs operates in south Florida through its ownership of Calder Casino, a former thoroughbred track that offers slots and electronic table games. Whether or not TwinSpires betting site will go live in Florida will largely depend on the outcome of the ongoing legislative dispute.
FOX Bet is owned by Flutter Entertainment, the giant sports betting and gaming company that also owns FanDuel, PokerStars and TVG. FOX Bet sportsbook does not have specific ties to Florida. The sports betting operator uses Fox Sports personalities to make selections on games and then offers various promotions and odds boosts on those games.
Owned by Chicago-based digital gaming provider Rush Street International, BetRivers betting site offers some form of sports wagering in nearly a dozen states. Its bonus offers are among the most favorable in the industry, requiring only a 1x playthrough requirement before bonus money can be redeemed.
Online division of MGM Resorts International continues to aggressively expand its digital presence and now offers online wagering in nearly a dozen states, having recently entered the Virginia and Washington D.C. markets. While BetMGM Sports has no specific ties to Florida, its popular brand makes it an obvious candidate to enter any state with legal sports betting.
Florida is home to at least two pro sports teams apiece in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, along with several high-profile NCAA Division I athletic programs. That gives Sunshine State bettors a diverse menu of games involving local teams. Among them:
The defending Super Bowl champions are riding a wave of popularity after Tom Brady and Co. routed the Kansas Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, becoming the first team to win the game at their home stadium. The Bucs also won the Super Bowl in 2002 and are one of only two franchises undefeated in multiple Super Bowl appearances. The Bucs are a member of the NFC South and play their home games at Raymond James Stadium.
The oldest pro sports teams in Florida, the Dolphins played their first NFL season in 1966 and won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972-73. The 1972 team was the first and only NFL team to complete a perfect season, winning all 14 regular-season games and the Super Bowl. The Dolphins, who play at Hard Rock Stadium, have not win an AFC East Division title since 2008. But they exceeded expectations with a 10-6 record in 2021 and are 30-1 to win the Super Bowl in 2022.
The Jaguars, who played their first season in 1995, are one of four NFL franchises to have never played in the Super Bowl. They finished the 2021 season with an NFL-worst 1-15 record. The arrival of legendary college coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, provide reasons for optimism. The Jaguars compete in the AFC South and play their home games at TIAA Bank Field.
Both teams play in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The Heat have enjoyed more success of the two, winning the NBA Finals in 2006 and then again in 2012 and 2013 with LeBron James. The Magic have not won a title but reached the NBA Finals in 1995 and 2009. The Heat play their home games at FTX Arena; the Magic at the Amway Center.
Wagering on college games involving Florida-based sports teams will be legal and the state is home to several high-profile programs. The University of Florida, Florida State and Miami have combined to win 11 national football championships, with each school claiming at least three.
And that’s not mentioning the two-time defending NHL Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who haven’t experienced a losing season since 2012-13.
Florida’s pro sports teams have taken a patient approach and not yet announced official team deals with sportsbook partners. That is likely to change as sports betting moves closer to implementation in the state.
The four major U.S. pro sports leagues, all of which have multiple Florida teams, have several sports betting partnerships. Among the most notable:
NFL: Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel
MLB: Bally’s, BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet
NBA: BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet
NHL: Bally’s, BetMGM, FanDuel, PointsBet
Florida has nine pro teams (only California has more) that play in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, so there should be no shortage of betting action on each of those sports. There is also strong interest in soccer (two MLS teams), golf (home of the PGA and LPGA Tours), NASCAR (Daytona 500) and other pro sports.
That said, the NFL is the most popular wagering league in the U.S., and the same is likely to hold true for Florida. College football betting will also be a powerful wagering market, and to a lesser extent, college basketball.
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Florida online sportsbooks are expected to follow the lead of other states and accept a wide range of deposit options for betting. The most popular:
Deposits can be immediate, depending on the method used. Withdrawals take longer and generally require a 24-48 hour approval process. The most popular withdrawal options:
Withdrawals can be requested from an online sports betting account at any time. Some sportsbooks allow players to track the status of their withdrawals.
Mobile accounts for the lion’s share of sports wagering in all states in which both online and in-person betting are allowed. Generally, 80 percent or more of all sports wagers are placed through apps or online sites, and in several states, it’s higher than 90 percent.
If Florida is approved for mobile sports betting, all providers will roll out free, multi-functional sports betting apps for both iOS and Android devices, which will give bettors access to odds and wagering 24/7.
Without knowing exactly how betting in Florida will be implemented, this is a difficult question to answer.
If the amended gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe moves forward, Florida will become the largest state in the nation to offer sports betting. That in itself is a victory for Sunshine State bettors, but their options will be limited. It’s unclear how many online Florida sportsbook operators will want to partner with the tribe given the economic terms of the deal and the fact that the Seminoles will essentially control all Florida sportsbooks. That’s a far less inclusive system than most other states and will provide fewer choices for bettors.
Legal challenges to the Seminole’s Tribe ability to offer online sports wagering have already been filed. It’s possible a judge could remove the online wagering provision from the compact, but still allow the tribe to offer in-person wagering at a Hard Rock Casino or pari-mutuel facility. A retail-only option would clearly not be ideal for bettors and the state would fail to capture the bulk of the sports betting market.
Under terms of the amended compact, the Seminole Tribe is required to make an annual donation of $250,000 per operational gaming facility to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. It also continues the provisions of the 2010 compact which limits gaming at tribal facilities to anyone 21 or older.
Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming have developed a PlayersEdge program, an education strategy designed for all gamblers, not just anyone at risk for problem gambling. The program also offers voluntary self-exclusion and referrals for professional help and counseling services.
Not yet. An amended compact with the Seminole Tribe, which includes sports betting was approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis but awaits federal approval and must withstand legal challenges.
Anyone 21 or over is eligible to participate in casino gambling and sports betting in Florida. The minimum age is 18 for pari-mutuel wagering, poker, lottery and bingo.
There is no online sports betting in FL as of yet.
Yes. The Seminole Tribe own and operate six Hard Rock Casinos in Florida on tribal lands. Hard Rock will offer legal sports betting if the state’s amended compact with the tribe is approved and implemented.
No. There is no residency requirement. But all bettors must be physically located inside the state of Florida when placing a legal wager. Geofencing technology tracks each bettor’s location.
Yes. The Seminole Tribe will pay the state 13.75% of its sports betting profits. That jumps to 15.75% if the tribe fails to reach deals with at least three separate pari-mutuel operators.
Yes. If everything passes legal muster, sportsbooks in FL will be available via iOS and Android mobile apps.