Florida Sports Betting Decision Could be Coming Soon

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 9, 2023 08:00 PM
Florida Sports Betting Decision Could be Coming Soon

Could we finally see the end of the battle over Florida sports betting in the near future? It sure seems like it.

Sort of.

Technically, according to average timelines for hearings in the U.S. Court of Appeals, we're overdue for a verdict on sports betting in Florida. This delay could suggest something about the state of the case. It could also imply we're approaching a decision—and the next phase of this legal battle. It could even be purely incidental.

Whatever this delay means, it's most likely nothing good. With each passing day the case between the Seminole Tribe and West Flagler Associates drags on, the timeline for legal sports gambling in Florida gets pushed back even further. For better or worse, many are just looking for an end to this litigation so they can see what comes next. If and when will they get their wish? The answer might lie in the lack of results themselves.

The U.S. Court of Appeals is Two to Three Months Behind the Intended Schedule of the Florida Sports Betting Litigation

The case between the Seminole Tribe and West Flagler Associates entered the U.S. Court of Appeals at the beginning of December 2022. That's roughly five months ago. And as noted by Daniel Wallach, a sports gaming attorney and legal analyst for The Athletic, this is extremely atypical.

"Decision on Florida sports betting? It’s been nearly five months since the date of oral argument in the DC Circuit," he wrote. "The median time from oral argument to decision is between 2-3 months. Delay may indicate a divided court. But we are near the finish line. Could be any day. Any week. And then the real fun begins—rehearing en banc followed by the Supreme Court of the United States. Both are strong possibilities. We could be looking at 2025 for finality."

That last line is going to stick with, well, everyone. If the current Florida sports betting litigation doesn't wrap up until 2025, the return of gambling in The Sunshine State may not roll it back out until 2026. And that's at the absolute earliest. A whole host of complications can ensure that the projected date gets rolled back even further.

The Path to Legal Sports Gambling in Florida is Looking More and More Complicated

The quickest way for sports betting to return in Florida requires the U.S. Court of Appeals and any further litigation in the Supreme Court to uphold the gaming compact signed between the state and the Seminole Tribe. That entire process could take over a year, as Mr. Wallach alluded to above. But if that's the ultimate outcome, Florida at least won't be dealing with any policy overhaul. The Seminole Tribe is already set up to offer on-site and mobile sports wagering and can simply operate as they did toward the end of 2021.

Everything changes if the U.S. Court of Appeals and/or the Supreme Court sides with West Flagler Associates. This would force Florida back to square one of the sports betting agenda. They wouldn't merely need to broker another gaming compact and continue onward. They would instead need to craft a sports betting bill that would necessitate a constitutional amendment.

That's only going to happen during a round of legislative meetings. And those take place just once a year. Depending on when the current Florida sports betting lawsuit is settled, the state may need to wait the better part of a year before initiating talks on a new proposal.

Once a new measure is in the works, it will then need to pass. That means any Florida sports betting bill must advance through the House of Representatives and Senate—a tall task by itself. Assuming there's no issue here, the bill must then be put on a general election ballot. And those ballots are only held every other even-numbered year. The next one is in 2024. The one after that is in 2026. And so on and so forth.

Here's Why Florida sports Betting Remains on the Slow Track

Complicated still, the path to legal sports betting in Florida was recently thrown for another whirl. Congress approved a measure that requires nearly 67 percent of all voters to support a measure for it to pass. The previous threshold was 60 percent. 

This may not be an issue. Multiple polls show many Floridians are in favor of sports betting. But the higher threshold is nothing if not a potential roadblock. And even if it's not, Florida sports betting isn't exactly on the fast track.

If the current lawsuit isn't resolved until 2025, there's a strong chance the House and Senate won't have time to approve a new sports betting bill for the 2026 electoral ballot. That, in turn, would mean the 2028 election is the earliest ballot on which a new Florida sports betting initiative could appear. 

Even if we assume this hypothetical bill has no problems getting voted into law, the state would be hard-pressed to roll out legal sports betting before 2029. It could take even longer if they push for legal wagering and have to set up systems for top online sportsbooks looking to crack the market.

For advocates of Florida sports gambling, it might seem like there are no good options. We wish we could argue the inverse. But we can't. This entire process has been long and complicated. That doesn't appear on the verge of changing. If you want sports betting in Florida as quickly as possible, you need to hope the case between the Seminole Tribe and West Flagler Associates ends shortly. The sooner, the better.

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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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