New Hopes for Florida Legal Sports Betting in 2021

Florida lawmakers have made a move to put legal sports wagering back on the table for the Sunshine State’s potential sports bettors. Tallahassee’s 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 Indiana, and are keen to cash in, on the back of revenue shortfalls due to the global pandemic.

It is estimated that in the two-and-a-half years since the U.S. Supreme Court gave the states the green light to pursue sports wagering in their respective jurisdictions in May 2018, that legal sports betting has generated as much as $340 million in tax revenue across 19 U.S. states.

Details of Florida’s New Sports Betting ‘Deal’

State Senator Jeff Brandes, a Republican lawmaker from St. Petersburg, has recently filed a senate bill (SB 392) proposing legalizing sports betting in Florida. Under his proposal, the Florida State Lottery Department would oversee wagering licenses, which would mean revenue generated from sports wagering would bolster education in the state. Winnings would be taxed at 15% under the proposal.

The flexible proposal outlines an array of options for sports betting, while in addition lists a number of people who would be prohibited from wagering to protect the integrity of sports, including coaches, referees, athletes and people working with sport’s governing bodies and online sportsbooks. The bill is filed for debate during Florida’s 2021 legislative session, which will begin in March.

Brandes’ new Florida sports wagering bill is quite similar to a bill that failed to advance during the 2020 session. Back in 2019, Trilby Republican Wilton Simpson, now the President of Florida senate, and representatives of the Florida’s Seminole Tribe agreed terms on a deal that included the potential of sports betting at the Seminoles’ tribal casinos and at pari-mutuel horse racing facilities, however, the proposed deal went unapproved at the time.

Brandes is hopeful that this time around, his sports betting legalization bill can get the job done for the state;

“Doing it through the lottery, we’re not giving anybody anymore leverage against us in terms of withholding funds if somebody technically breaks the compact,” Brandes said.
The legislation allows for Florida sports betting at both the professional sports and college level.

Potential Cash Injection for Florida Colleges & Universities

Florida sports betting would also provide a much-need cash injection to financially struggling state colleges and private universities.

Florida State University Sport Management Professor Dr. Jason Pappas believes it could be a lifesaver for college teams, which have been hit hard by the financial impact of the global pandemic.

“This would be another huge revenue stream that would offset some of those costs, and I truly believe over the long term would actually increase probably bigger than any other revenue source that’s out there when it comes to sport” Pappas said.

With an estimated 100 million people travelling to Florida each year and as many as 80 million visiting Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando alone, a huge chunk of Florida’s potential sports betting revenue could be sourced from outside the Sunshine State.

Currently, Florida permits its voters to have the final word on introducing legalized sports betting. However, in order for the law to pass in Florida, at least 60% of referendum voters must support sports wagering, something that the Seminole casinos are unlikely to back unless it grants them exclusivity over the sports betting industry. However, first up, lawmakers will need to decide to take it to the people.

The Florida legislative session is scheduled to recommence on March 2 2021.

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