The sports betting situation in Florida is truly unique—and only getting weirder. The state rolled out legal gambling in November 2021 only to essentially kill it before the end of the year. Not only does sports betting remain out of commission today, but it may now be years until legal online gambling hits the state. This projection, naturally, has everyone wondering if there's anything that can be done to accelerate the timeline—and whether Florida is even prepared to entertain moving up the timeline in the first place.
It is genuinely incredible how quickly and substantially the legal sports betting in Florida debate has devolved over the past few months. The state went from approving it and rolling it out by the end of November 2021 to suspending it just a month later. And now, just a couple of months after that, we're learning Florida online sports betting may not be legalized until 2025.
Many are optimistic this is an overstatement. After all, sports betting in the USA is now legal in more than half of the country. Florida's current status puts them in the minority, which suggests it's only a matter of time before they re-implement it. But "a matter of time" shouldn't be confused with an imminent decision.
Due to the current legislation and ongoing debates between the state, tribes and larger corporate sportsbooks, Florida needs to slog through a number of different steps before legal sports betting can return. And once that happens, there's no guarantee that online gambling is given the green light, as well.
Confused? Don't worry. We were, too. But there is an explanation. And we've dug deep to find it.
What Went Wrong for Florida Sports Betting?
The issues facing Florida and their future of legal sports betting can be complicated. In a nutshell, though, it comes down to an argument of control.
Florida's Governor, Ron DeSantis, initially agreed to a 30-year gaming compact with the Seminole tribe that would've exclusively legalized their ability to offer on-site and online sports betting. This essentially closed the door to larger, more established sportsbook providers who don't operate within the state, such as Bovada, BetOnline, BetNow and any other top online sportsbooks we've reviewed.
Not surprisingly, this setup drew the ire of domestic corporate sportsbooks like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM and so on. They argued that this represented an unfair monopoly, and it turns out a U.S. District Court Judge eventually agreed with him. In December 2021, roughly one month after sports betting debuted in Florida, it was ruled that the Seminole's gaming compact with the state "violated the Indiana Regulatory Gaming Act." The Seminole tribe suspended all of their sportsbooks operations shortly thereafter, including an online site that the Hard Rock Casino ran in partnership with them.
Though the Seminoles have since appealed this decision, nothing has changed in Florida over the past few months. Sports betting continues to remain suspended, and even if it's re-installed expeditiously, there's an overwhelmingly strong likelihood online sports betting will be excluded from the new agreement.
Why Florida May Not See Online Sports Betting Until 2025
As the Seminole tribe continues their dispute with the state of Florida, another sports betting initiative financed by FanDuel and DraftKings was proposed in hopes that it could crack the November 2022 general ballot. However, that bill failed to reach the required number of verified signatures, and as a result, another sports betting initiative cannot be attempted again until 2024.
That's...years away. And somehow, a 2024 proposal doesn't even tell the whole story.
It isn't just like Florida can legalize sports betting one day and then roll it out the next. It will take time to dole out online sports betting licenses and to set up the infrastructures necessary to handle the influx of traffic. This a process that can take up to a year or more when all's said and done. And that means that voting another sports betting bill through in 2024 probably results in a 2025 debut.
Florida Bettors Should Brace for a Long Wait...Sort of
There is a shred of silver lining for Florida residents holding out hope for the return of legalized sports betting. The state and Seminole tribe can reach terms on a new gaming compact at any time. One or both sides will invariably have to compromise, but such a scenario is hardly outside the realm of possibility. Florida is missing out on tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in potential tax revenue gleaned from sports betting. When there's this much money at stake, even the most stubborn arguments have a way of eventually resolving themselves.
That said, any new agreement between the Seminoles and Florida would not include online betting, since that would violate the U.S. District Court's ruling from last year. A new gaming compact would only cover on-site sports wagering, which means bets would need to be physically placed on location. And while that remains a lucrative business, it isn't anywhere near as profitable as an online operation that invites competition for sports betting licenses and allows for partnerships with professional sports franchises, among other things.
In all likelihood, then, Florida will have to wait until late 2024 or 2025 to push through the legalization of online sports better. The only other way to accelerate the process would be if the Seminoles' appeal to overturn the U.S. District Court's ruling proves successful. But these appeals processes have been known to take years. Plural. There's a real chance Florida will be allowed to propose an entirely different sports betting bill before the Seminoles' appeal earns a ruling.
This is all to say: If you live in Florida and want to place sports bets online, you better strap yourself. You're going to be waiting around for the long haul.
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