Online Gambling Operators Still Anxiously Waiting on Florida Sports Betting

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Online Gambling Operators Still Anxiously Waiting on Florida Sports Betting

As the outlook on sports betting in Florida continues to change by the day, one thing remains constant: Online gambling sites are still eagerly awaiting the legalization of Florida sports betting.

In a recent piece for the Offshore Gaming Association, Hartley Henderson noted that bookmakers are "anxious for licensed and regulated sports betting" to arrive in The Sunshine State. That's hardly a surprise. Thirty-three states have now legalized and rolled out some form of sports betting. Legal gambling is close to the standard across the country. This puts Florida in the minority.

All along, the belief has been The Sunshine State will eventually embrace sports betting. After all, they already did once, when they legalized it with a gaming compact in 2021. But the repeal of wagering left many with a bad taste in their mouth. The ensuing litigation has done much of the same. Florida is now essentially 18 months removed from their days of legal sports betting, with no end to the current delay in sight.

Through it all, plenty of other states have joined the sports betting fold. Naturally, this has left many of the top online betting sites in the United States wondering the same thing: When will legal sports gambling return to Florida?

Why Are The Top Online Betting Sites Obsessed with Entering the Florida Sports Market

It's no mystery why so many odds providers want to enter the Florida sports betting market. The Sunshine State represents one of the five most lucrative wagering opportunities in the country. Online betting sites are in the business of maximizing revenue, and existing outside a flagship market like Florida limits their potential for growth.

Even so, the desire for sports betting in The Sunshine State can come across as over the top. There are still nearly 20 other states that have yet to legalize gambling. The focus on Florida feels a little high even when accounting for market size.

Go ahead and chalk up the heightened thirst for legal Florida sports betting to gaping holes at the top of the United States' gambling market. At present, New York is the only top-five market to offer sports wagering. The other four—California, Texas, Georgia and Florida—have yet to make the transition.

Among those four, Florida is seen as the best chance at imminent legalization. California voters vetoed two sports betting bills during the 2022 general elections. Georgia has all but decided not to pursue legal sports betting in 2023. And recent reports suggest the Texas Senate doesn't have the votes to approve sports betting this year.

That leaves online operators to zero in on Florida by default. Granted, they probably always would have shined the spotlight on The Sunshine State. Florida is the only one of these four states to already approve sports betting. They signed a gaming compact that granted exclusive gambling rights to the Seminole Tribe. That agreement was later overturned by a District Court judge when the Seminoles rolled out a mobile gaming app. The terms of their gaming compact called for on-site wagering only. The Seminoles argued their app was an extension of their property but to no avail. The lawsuit filed against them is currently under review in the Federal Court of Appeals.

The Federal Government is Pushing for Legal Sports Betting in Florida

Florida sports betting advocates apparently have an ally in the Federal Government. Despite concerns about the 2021 agreement violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the current administration continues to throw their support behind The Sunshine State's previous gaming compact.

To this point, that support hasn't done much. In fact, as Mr. Henderson explained for the Offshore Gaming Association, all signs point to even more delays:

"Despite agreement among legal experts that the compact could violate IGRA rules, President Joe Biden and others in the government urged the courts to allow the compact to go forward and deny the lawsuit in support of Indian sovereignty. But a federal court ruled that the compact indeed violated federal law and told the groups to go back to the drawing board. With the midterm elections taking place in 2022, the issue was never really addressed, and no sports betting took place in Florida in 2022 and it is expected nothing will be heard on the issue until at least this fall. To add fuel to the fire, an anti-gambling group called No Casinos has demanded that any gambling expansion not even be considered unless it is approved by voters in a referendum. If the courts and government agree to that stipulation, it is most likely the compact in Florida will not even be addressed again until the 2024 November election."

In the event Florida sports betting isn't addressed again until 2024, that means the state won't have it queued up and ready to go until probably 2025, if not 2026. That's no doubt why so many sportsbook operators have legal teams on expensive retainers attempting to lobby the government to take action.

Whether these tactics work remains to be seen. But there's a larger issue at play.

Online Sports Betting Not Guaranteed to Arrive in Florida

Let's say the initial gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida gets the green light. That isn't necessarily good news for sports betting sites.

The 2021 agreement only legalized on-site wagering in The Sunshine State. If Florida wants to legalize online sports betting, they'll need a constitutional amendment. That will require a new sports betting bill and approval from the House of Representatives and Senate. From there, they'll need the initiative to appear on a general election ballot.

None of this is on the fast track to actualization. There's no guarantee Florida seeks to expand their previous sports betting laws. Even if they do, the apparent timeline is beyond lengthy. If the current Florida sports betting litigation doesn't end until 2024, the earliest online wagering can realistically roll out is 2026.

This is all to say: There may eventually be online sports betting in Florida. But it's unlikely to arrive anytime soon.

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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