Expert: Don't Expect Legal Florida Sports Betting Before 2025

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 6, 2023 07:00 PM
Expert: Don't Expect Legal Florida Sports Betting Before 2025

As we consider all outcomes to the ongoing issue of sports betting in Florida, it might be time we brace ourselves for the worst possible resolution turning into the most likely one. That nightmare scenario? Legal Florida sports betting failing to return before 2025.

To be sure, this is not by far and away the prevailing consensus. The majority of experts still fall under the "To be determined" umbrella. Given all the twists and turns this matter has taken since the end of 2021, nobody knows for sure what's going to happen next, let alone how it will end.

Still, it's worth noting that more and more plugged-in people are growing skeptical that legal Florida sports betting will return to its previous form. Most recently, Daniel Wallach, an attorney who specializes in gaming law, spoke with News 6 in Florida about what to expect moving forward. His sentiments were miles from upbeat.

“The clearest path to sports betting in Florida is, in all likelihood, through the ballot initiative process,” Wallach said. “That seems to be the most realistic path forward for both retail and online sports betting, which means, as a practical matter, the first legal bet in Florida likely won’t be made until 2025.”

This will come as a disheartening stance to so many. Remember: Florida had legal sports betting up and running in 2021. It was then repealed just before the end of the year and has remained dormant ever since. And in that time, legal sports betting throughout the United States has become almost the standard. More than 30 states have operational wagering in some form, and a handful more are set to join the fray by the end of 2023. Optimists have long hoped Florida would be among them. But the longer this legal battle drags on, the less likely that seems.

Pessimism Mounts as Florida Awaits Decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals

Back in December, the U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides of legal Florida sports betting. More than a month later, the wait for their verdict continues on. It is ultimately this decision that could determine when—or if—sports betting will return to Florida.

For those who haven't been following along, the primary issue at hand is the method by which the Sunshine State legalized wagering. Under Florida law, the legalization of sports betting required a constitutional amendment that, in addition to going through the House of Representatives and Senate, would need to be approved by a voter ballot. However, governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole tribe circumvented this by agreeing to a gaming compact that only permitted wagering on tribal grounds. In exchange for exclusivity and bypassing the opportunity to legalize online betting, the state would be paid an estimated $2.5 billion over the first five years of the deal.

Though these terms had their fair share of opponents, the legal Florida sports betting launch took place in 2021 and went off without a hitch. That's until the Seminole tribe started offering online bets through a mobile application, in partnership with the Hard Rock Casino. They were then sued by people with vesting interests and ties to retail sportsbooks for violating the Indiana Gaming Regulatory Act. The Seminoles, for their part, have argued they did nothing wrong; they believe their mobile properties are an extension of tribal grounds. And the Federal Government has so far been inclined to agree, throwing their support behind the Seminoles in arguments made to the court.

With all this said, the time it has taken for the U.S. Court of Appeals to render a verdict has many thinking they may be inclined to uphold the plaintiffs' argument. And if that happens, Florida's previous gaming compact will technically cease to exist.

Why Legal Florida Sports Betting May Not Return Until 2025

In the event the Seminoles' gaming compact with Florida is thrown out, the state will be back at square one. That means they will need to pass another sports betting bill through the House of Representatives and Senate. And this time, any measure will need to be put on a voter ballot.

That cannot happen until the November 2024 elections. And if sports betting isn't approved until the end of 2024, it'll be mid- to late-2025 by the time Florida is set up to accept wagers again. That's more than two years away.

Not surprisingly, in the face of this prospect, Floridians have started seeking out alternatives. They can not only visit one of the neighboring states with legal sports betting, but they have the ability to sign up with many sites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. Estimates for early 2023 already suggest there has been an uptick in offshore sports betting among Florida residents.

The Seminoles Gaming Compact Isn't Dead...Yet

Of course, preparing for a 2025 rollout may be getting ahead of ourselves. Mr. Wallach himself has said there's a better chance legal Florida sports betting gets reinstated this year after he heard the oral arguments.

Still, nothing is guaranteed at this point. And more litigation could follow the ruling handed down from the U.S. Court of Appeals. There's a real chance the losing side pushes to take this matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would tack months on to the delay. 

And not only that, but even if the gaming compact with the Seminoles is upheld, that doesn't do anything for people who wish to bet on sports online in Florida. Retail gaming was not legalized as part of that agreement. In many ways, then, if you want online sports betting in Florida anytime soon, you may be better off hoping the gaming compact gets overturned and the state is forced introduce another sports bill onto the 2024 ballot.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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