How Will the Battle Over Florida Sports Betting Ultimately End?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 22, 2023 12:00 AM
All signs point to a less than ideal ending for the battle over Florida sports betting.

How and when will the battle over sports betting in Florida end? Technically, nobody knows.

The future of Florida sports betting remains entangled in what feels like unending litigation. Updates on the process are no longer just sparse. They are nonexistent. There is no timeline for a decision. Uncertainty is the only given. And the delay is nothing if not unsettling.

Just think about how long this ordeal has lasted. Florida sports betting went live in 2021, at retail locations operated by the Seminole, after they agreed to a lucrative long-term gaming compact with the state, in partnership with Governor Ron DeSantis' office. A District Court Judge eventually overturned the deal, essentially calling its interpretation of existing laws a work of fiction. Sports betting was repealed that same year.

The Sunshine State, Seminole tribe and the plaintiffs have been wrapped in litigation ever since. Most recently, the case was elevated to the United State Court of Appeals. Arguments have been heard. Briefs have been filed. Deliberation is presumably underway. And yet, the wait continues. Days have become weeks. Weeks have turned into months. And now, months are turning into years. All the while, no concrete timetable for resolution is on the horizon. 

Many remain optimistic a Florida sports betting decision could come soon. Nobody can know for sure. Not now. Others, meanwhile, are interpreting this extensive delay as a harbinger permanent repeal. And while this is purely speculation, more and more experts are starting to agree: The battle over Florida sports betting will likely end by yanking the state's gaming policies back to square one.

There is a Florida Sports Betting Issue That's Not Receiving Enough Attention

As we've outline previously, the Seminoles' use of a mobile sports betting app is among the primary issues at hand. Though the gaming compact legalized sports betting exclusively on tribal property, their mobile application allowed users to process transactions from anywhere. The Seminoles have argued their sports betting app is an extension of their property, and that they didn't break any laws. Opponents, as well as the District Court, believe this is an inaccurate read of the law.

Yet, while this war of logic is among the biggest issues, it isn't the only one. Another major roadblock has been lost in the shuffle: The courts are also tasked with deciding whether the legalization of Florida sports betting was valid to begin with.

Unlike most other states, Florida rolled out legal gambling without taking the matter to a general election ballot. This is rare, and it caught the attention of lawmakers and, above all, prospective competitors. Christie Zizo of News 4 in Jacksonville recently explained the workaround—and the impassioned opposition it drew:

"To get around a 2018 voter-approved amendment that only authorized gambling in the state if it was approved by voters, the servers for the sports betting were supposed to be located on tribal land. In return for agreeing to the compact, the state would get at least $2.5 billion over the first five years, and an estimated $20 billion over the 30 years of the deal. The U.S. Department of the Interior, overseer of American Indian affairs, allowed the contract to go through under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which governs the framework for tribal gambling. But non-tribal gambling facilities in Florida, including the owners of Magic City Casino in Miami-Dade County, sued to stop the compact in federal court. They sued the Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Debra Haaland."

Basically, this isn't just a matter of the Seminoles' mobile sports betting app. The entire Florida sports betting agreement is under the microscope. If the United States Court of Appeals rules that the Seminoles use of the mobile betting app violated policy, they are also probably going to rule that the entire gaming compact was invalid.

The Best Shot Florida Sports Betting at Legalization May be a General Election Vote

This explains why many are skeptical the state's current gaming compact will survive. No news, in this case, is seen as bad news. That's led many industry experts to believe Florida will be forced back to the drawing board. As Daniel Wallach, an attorney specializing in gaming law, told News 6's Justin Warmoth: "The clearest path to sports betting in Florida is, in all likelihood, through the ballot initiative process. 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.

Floridians might groan at the thought of waiting until 2025 for legal sports betting. On the bright side, a new measure could theoretically give them access to the best online sports betting sites in the United States. After all, only in-person sports betting was legalized as part of the gaming compact with the Seminoles.

Unfortunately, this 2025 timeline could also be on the ambitious end. A new Florida sports betting proposal must appear on the 2024 general election ballot if it's to go into effect by 2025. For that to happen, the House and Senate must pass an initiative by the end of next year's legislative meetings, which should adjourn a few months before the November 2024 elections. Here's the thing: The current litigation must be resolved before the state travels down that path. There's no telling whether it will be.

Sure, the U.S. Court of Appeals should have rendered their verdict long before then—certainly by the end of this year. But there's a chance one of the parties elevates this to the Supreme Court depending on the ruling. That would delay the process even further, perhaps all the way past next year's legislative meetings.

And if that's the case, Florida sports betting won't have a prayer of returning before 2027.

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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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