2023 NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals Loom Large Over Absence of Florida Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 30, 2023 08:00 PM
2023 NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals Loom Large Over Absence of Florida Sports Betting

The battle over sports betting in Florida is now roughly 18 months old, and it still has no end in sight. For all we know, Florida sports betting could remain tied up in litigation for another 18 months, giving the issue three years' worth of legs.

Over these past 18 months, of course, The Sunshine State has missed opportunity after opportunity. Most of them are financial. Florida is considered one of the five largest sports betting markets in the United States. The revenue they stand to generate on an annual basis is absurd. Even if online sports betting in Florida isn't legalized, on-site gambling alone could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, in additional money to the state each year.

And yet, while the totality of The Sunshine State's missed opportunities is massive, they will perhaps never have a more lucrative set of circumstances pass them by than what's currently happening now.

Right now, gamblers across the United States are wagering on the latest odds to win the 2023 NBA Finals. They are also investing in the latest odds to win the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final. Both series have been set at this writing. And while this is always a big time of year for states with legal sports betting, Florida is missing out more than most.

Why, you ask? Because a team from the state is currently competing in each of these championship rounds.

Florida Sports Betting Would Enjoy an Avalanche of Action Thanks to the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers

The NBA and NHL finals are the only two championship rounds in major North American sports that are played at the same time. The NFL's Super Bowl takes place in February. The MLB's World Series happens in the early fall. The MLS Cup usually occurs sometime in November. The NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals, on the other hand, almost always overlap, with the first game of each series typically taking place in early June.

That is once again the case in 2023. The NBA Finals tips off on Thursday, June 1. The Stanley Cup Final will begin on Saturday, June 3. And this year, the state of Florida is represented in both. The Florida Panthers are facing the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final while the Miami Heat are set to tip off against the Denver Nuggets in the 2023 NBA Finals.

There is no telling how much money The Sunshine State is leaving on the table as their sports betting compact with the Seminole Tribe remains tied up in the United States Court of Appeals. Official estimates will probably trickle out once both series end. And they will most definitely be on the higher end.

A quick search across social media platforms will reveal an increase in the number of complaints about Florida sports betting. They range from "Why doesn't Florida have legal gambling yet?" to more hostile inquiries we wouldn't dare print here. There have even been claims that licensed sportsbooks in the United States allowed prospective customers in Florida to sign up and make deposits before shutting down their accounts.

You also know attempts to bet on sports in Florida are rising when operators feel compelled to comment about it. According to EGR.global, sports betting heavyweights DraftKings and FanDuel recently reiterated their support to expand the gambling laws in Florida. This is not an accident. It's an announcement that doubles as damage control. The battle over Florida sports betting is nearly two years old. These operators aren't just suddenly acknowledging it now. They just want to make it clear they're not holding up the process.

What Does the Future of Sports Betting in Florida Actually Hold?

This question is posed relentlessly—and rightfully so. Unfortunately, the state of sports betting in Florida hasn't changed. The West Flagler Associates vs. Florida and the Seminole Tribe case continues to be deliberated in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Though many are hopeful a Florida sports betting decision could come soon, no timetable for a verdict has been set. If and when we get one, industry experts have cautioned it won't bring finality. The case could still be elevated to the United States Supreme Court regardless of the result.

What's more, this lawsuit only represents part of the problem. Florida initially only legalized sports betting on Seminole properties. The tribe's attempt to roll out a Florida mobile sports betting app is what got us here. They argued it was an extension of their tribal property. The plaintiffs, however, argued that it wasn't and therefore violated the nature of the gaming compact. A U.S. District Court judge ruled against the Seminole tribe in late 2021 and repealed legal sports betting in The Sunshine State. Fast forward to now, and nothing's changed.

But let's say the gaming compact between the Seminole tribe and the state of Florida is eventually upheld. That still wouldn't legalize online sports betting in Florida. Residents would need to explore alternatives if they wished to place wagers without leaving their home.

Those same alternatives are available to them now. They're free to sign up with trusted off-shore operators who don't restrict their location. Many of the sites in our reviews of the best online sportsbooks, for instance, will let Floridians create accounts and begin processing wagers in minutes. And you better believe plenty of people will take advantage of the opportunity. The off-shore sports betting market among Floridians is believed to be a billion-dollar-per-year industry.

Most of this is money the state of Florida could be legally taxing. But the extensive litigation process has kept the future of gambling in the limbo. And while that's apparent around every tent-pole sporting event, it's especially gutting now. Florida has never had both an NHL and NBA team win a title in the same season. This year could be the first time it's ever happened. The mere possibility is bound to be worth a fortune in sports betting revenue—sports betting revenue Florida will never see.

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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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