Sports and online casino betting is still not a reality for fans and sports bettors in the state of Florida, but is all that about to change? Well, it won’t be tomorrow, however, the winds of change are blowing across the Sunshine State and we’re certain the state’s lawmakers and bean counters and revenue number crunchers are fully aware of the economic windfall that legal online gambling has brought to northern states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
What are the issues that need to be overcome before Florida has a full legal online sports betting and casino gaming industry up-and-running? Let’s examine the current state of play and where Florida lawmakers and online gaming cohorts need to go next.
Florida Gambling Now – and where to next?
Currently, sports betting is not legal in Florida, although horse and greyhound racing betting are legal (although greyhound racing betting has been voted down and is scheduled to cease on January 1 2021).
Other forms of legal gambling existing in Florida include land-based tribal casinos operated by representatives of the Seminole Tribe.
However, when it comes to online sports wagering and online casino game betting, the lines are blurry in the Sunshine State. A legal loophole exists in the Florida’s gambling laws which underline the confusion of the legal status of gambling online. There is an almost deliberately hazy aspect in the way the law is written.
For example, there is no law specifically against online gaming and sports betting but it has not been declared legal either. Internet café gambling is outlawed and it is expressly illegal to operate an online casino in the Sunshine State.
Without express legislation against online gaming, Florida’s lawmakers appear to have an opportunity to rule for legal online sports betting, without being required to alter existing laws.
In another step forward in 2018, Florida voters approved a future gambling expansion constitutional amendment. This is a huge step forward as it allows for any future expansion in gambling in the Sunshine State being approved by a state wide referendum – putting the decision making in the hands of the people and not the politicians.
However, the stumbling block for Florida online betting reform becomes apparent when examining the role of the Seminole Tribe in the state’s gaming industry.
The Florida Government – Seminole Tribe Agreement
Back in 2010, the State Government and the Seminole Tribe came to an agreement, (or ‘compact’ as it’s known), which permitted the Tribe to offer casino gaming and run bricks-and-mortar casinos in return for revenues that they would provide to the government. As such, the Seminoles are the ‘gatekeepers’ to the introduction of online wagering in Florida.
As Florida’s lawmakers continue to work feverishly on creating a budget for 2020/2021, unexpected expenses and the closing of non-essential economic activity due to the pandemic has ramped up pressures on the economy and the Sunshine State’s coffers.
Fast forwarding to May 2020, Florida is looking at ways to fast-track online gaming legislation together with the Seminole Tribe. If online gaming revenue projections are correct, legal online sports and casino betting could possibly generate returns of $500 million for Florida in its first year, followed by at least $700 million per annum thereafter as the industry moves toward maturity.
Florida Voters Have to the Final Say on online betting
It’ll be up to Florida’s voters to see if they go the way of New Jersey, a state has successfully implemented legal online casino and sports betting with significant year-on-year returns being generated. Given the current economic downturn, it seems to be simply a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ online sports and casino wagering becomes a reality in Florida.