Florida Sports Betting Could be on the Verge of a Return

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jun 8, 2023 12:00 AM
Could Florida sports betting be on the verge of a return?

Is sports betting in Florida on track for an imminent return? A recent ruling from the United States Court of Appeals has ensured it's a distinct possibility, if not a likelihood.

This is a groundbreaking development in what's otherwise been a very sluggish process. Florida sports betting was initially rolled out at the end of 2021, only to be repealed shortly thereafter. It has been tied up in litigation ever since—for the better part of two years.

What's more, the litigation process never yielded a specific timeline for resolution. The Appellate Court heard all the necessary arguments and received all the required filings months ago. Since then, there hasn't been so much of a peep out of them. Though many recently speculated a Florida sports betting decision could come soon, this sentiment was just that—speculation. It wasn't necessarily based on concrete intel.

As it turns out, though, the speculation was spot-on. The Appellate Court opened the month of July by siding with the state of Florida and Seminole Tribe, ruling that their exclusive gaming compact could be upheld. 

What does this mean? And what's next? Read on to find out.

Here's What the Appellate Court's Ruling Means for Florida Sports Betting

In light of this ruling, many are wondering what it means for the immediate future of sports betting in Florida. Can residents go and place wagers at a Seminole-operated casino? Are they free to sign up and start gambling with one of the top online betting sites in the United States? The answer is...complicated.

First and foremost, Floridians cannot simply wager with just any online sportsbook. Under the state's gaming compact, only the Seminole tribe has the rights to offer sports betting. Residents would need to visit one of their casinos or use their sports betting app. Transactions at any other casinos or sports betting sites are not covered as part of the agreement.

This isn't a problem in a vacuum. Even if residents aren't near a Seminole casino, the tribe rolled out a sports betting app at the end of 2021 that could be accessed from anywhere. Of course, this turned out to be part of the problem. The gaming compact covered gambling on "tribal property" alone. Opponents argued the mobile betting app violated those terms. The Seminoles, on the other hand, argued the application was an extension of their property. That is essentially the main focus of this entire ordeal, and it remains unresolved.

The Appellate Court's recent ruling suggests the Seminoles are free to operate their online sports betting application as they see fit. But is it really that simple? Daniel Wallach, a sports betting attorney based in The Sunshine State, says yes. "If they want to, they can relaunch their online sportsbook tomorrow,” he explained to FOX 4. “What’s anyone going to say?” 

However, as of now, the Seminole tribe has yet to resume sports betting operations of any kind. Is this because the ruling is so fresh and they need time to initiate another rollout? Or should Florida be bracing for another delay in the proceedings?

The Re-Implementation of Sports Gambling in Florida Could Still be a Ways Off

Anyone who has followed the battle over Florida sports gambling knows the issue is never cut and dry. This latest news is no different. Though the Seminoles can technically resume their sports betting operations on the back of this ruling, experts don't expect them to pounce, because they still face the threat of further litigation.

Consider this excerpt from FOX 4:

"[Daniel] Wallach says it’s unlikely the ruling will be changed, but he still anticipates a lengthy court battle on multiple fronts. 'While the Seminole Tribe has the ruling that favors them, and that ruling is likely to stand, we may have to wait a year-and-a-half to know for sure, 100% if that’s the final ruling,' he said. The anti-gambling organization No Casinos said the ruling will not be 'the final word on this issue.' 'The will of the people will be respected, and the Florida constitution requires that Florida voters have the final word on gambling authorization,” the organization said in a statement released to media outlets."

The next phase of this process could see the matter elevated to the United States Supreme Court. That deliberation could take even more time than the Appellate Court used up. And until the Seminoles know whether this issue will be moved to the Supreme Court, they're unlikely to re-launch their sports betting operations.

What's a Realistic Timeline for the Return of Florida Sports Betting?

To be certain, this isn't about the legality of a re-launch.

It seems the Seminoles would be well within their rights to reopen sports betting operations. But any re-launch will be immediately repealed if the case gets moved to the Supreme Court. And while the Seminoles could simply offer sports betting until then, their re-launch will likely accelerate the matter's transition to additional litigation. In other words, there's a good chance that going to the trouble of reopening sports betting services will be more of a headache than anything.

This effectively means Florida sports betting will remain in the status quo, at least for the next few months. And if the opposition pushes this issue to the Supreme Court, the wait will be longer still. The delay could last years if the state is forced to put a sports betting initiative on a general election ballot. The next general election is scheduled for next fall. After that, there won't be another until 2026.

For now, there is no exact timeline on the future of Florida sports betting. At minimum, though, state likely won't get a re-launch before 2024. And even that may be an overly optimistic projection.

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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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