Yet Another Florida Sports Betting Controversy is Brewing

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jan 5, 2024 12:00 AM
As the future of Florida sports betting continues to billow in the wind, questions about Daily Fantasy Sports gambling are growing in number.

As the battle over the Seminole Tribe’s exclusive rights to Florida sports betting rages on, another gambling issue is now bubbling to the surface: The legality of Daily Fantasy Sports Betting in Florida.

Previously, this topic didn’t pose much concern. After all, sports betting in Florida wasn’t operational for over two years after it was repealed in 2021. Daily Fantasy Sports betting sites such as FanDuel, DraftKings and others had little reason to focus on The Sunshine State. Sure, Florida profiles as a top-five betting market. But Daily Fantasy Sports are, at best, a gray area in states without generalized sports wagering. 

Pushing the issue wasn’t worth the trouble for most Daily Fantasy Sports providers. In the case of DraftKings and FanDuel, specifically, they have extended their arm well beyond the DFS industry. Both companies now operate the two most popular online sportsbooks in the United States. Make no mistake, Daily Fantasy Sports are still part of their business model. But where they used to represent the whole kit and kaboodle, they are now a fraction of operations for FanDuel and DraftKings.

Beyond that, it simply didn’t make sense to elevate concerns and advance agendas while the fate of sports betting in Florida was being deliberated. Every retail and online operator in the United States has been anxiously waiting for closure to the ongoing litigation between West Flagler Associates and the Seminole Tribe. And technically, they still haven’t gotten it. The case could still be heard by the United States Supreme Court, and West Flagler Associates just filed another motion that will prolong the Florida sports betting battle at the state level.

However, for the time being, the Seminole Tribe is allowed to offer sports gambling services. And that has apparently caught the attention of DFS providers.

FanDuel and DraftKings Don’t Have Florida Sports Betting Privileges, But Their DFS Operations are Turning Heads

Contrary to what most might think, the latest wrinkle in the Florida sports betting fight isn’t about powerhouses like DraftKings and FanDuel attempting to secure their place in the market. Both companies have actually been operating their DFS sites in Florida. 

It’s this activity that is drawing the ire of other companies—specifically those such as PrizePicks and Betr. Both DFS providers were apparently sent cease and desist letters. Amid all the latest Florida sports betting news, as well as the operations of DraftKings and FanDuel, they want to know why they’re being iced out of the market. Here is the full scoop courtesy of NBC 6 in South Florida:

“As the Seminole Tribe offers online sports betting in Florida, a dispute over fantasy sports is heating up amid efforts by gambling regulators to rein in companies accused of operating potentially illegal betting games. The Florida Gaming Control Commission in September sent cease-and-desist letters to three fantasy sports operators, threatening legal action if the sites didn’t immediately stop. But Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, wants the commission to explain why the businesses were targeted and to clarify why they could be breaking the law while the biggest players in the industry — DraftKings and FanDuel — aren’t. The senator raised the issues in a Dec. 18 letter to the commission’s executive director, Lou Trombetta.”

Senator Gruters’ inquiry has plenty of merit. It also dovetails perfectly with the ongoing battle between West Flagler Associates and the Seminole Tribe. 

There are Interesting Parallels Between Daily Fantasy Sports Betting and General Florida Sports Gambling Issues

West Flagler Associates, a gaming operator in The Sunshine State, has demanded to know why the Seminoles can oversee a Florida sports betting app while no one else can. Though the tribe has an exclusive gaming compact with the state, it only covers bets placed on tribal property. But Florida allowed them to accept business throughout the region because, as the Seminoles argue, their online Florida sports betting app is an extension of their property.

This logic (loophole?) held up in the Florida Supreme Court. That’s why the Seminoles were allowed to relaunch their services less than two months ago. Similar logic has been used to green light Daily Fantasy Sports betting in Florida

Companies and their supporters insist that DFS is a game of skill rather than chance, so it cannot be considered gambling. While some states have accepted this stance, others have prohibited DFS activity along with general sports betting.

Florida currently hovers somewhere in-between—which is Senator Gruters’ entire issue. He believes that shutting out smaller DFS companies while allowing DraftKings and FanDuel to remain operational represents inconsistent enforcement. 

And to be sure, Senator Gruters isn’t necessarily advocating for an expansion of Florida Daily Fantasy Sports Betting. He’s not even a known supporter of Florida sports betting in general. He’s more so arguing that if certain DFS sites cannot operate in The Sunshine State right now, then others shouldn’t be permitted to, either.

Resolution to Daily Fantasy Sports Betting in Florida Might be Imminent

Unlike the issue of online sports betting in Florida, the DFS dilemma may already be approaching a resolution.

According to NBC 6, Senator Gruters has been assured the Florida Gaming Control Commission plans to send out cease and desist letters to FanDuel and DraftKings. But this raises a couple of questions. Chief among them: Why haven’t they received them yet when other DFS sites in Florida already did? Also: Will that eventual action prompt a response—and further litigation—from FanDuel and DraftKings?

Finally: What impact will the “other” Florida sports betting battle have on this issue? If the Florida Supreme Court once again rules in favor of the Seminole Tribe, does that open the door for Daily Fantasy Sports betting sites to resume operating in Florida? Or is this also a matter that will be determined by the United States Supreme Court, assuming they eventually hear the case?

As always, the answers to these Florida sports betting questions are anything but a given. This entire debate has been littered with twists and turns. And now, it seems like the larger Florida sports betting debate will endure another one in the coming weeks—if not months.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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