As Florida remains embroiled in a contentious battle over the future of sports gambling, it's become clear the opposing sides should be focused on reaching a compromise rather than waiting for the other party to eventually fold. Middle ground isn't easy to find on these matters, but a precedent set by Delaware back in the 1970s offers one potential solution: Florida should legalize NFL betting in a specialized manner to help assuage the current sports gambling debate.
This isn't to suggest that the Sunshine State should only legalize NFL betting. Every sport should be on the table, just like it was at the end of 2021, when sports betting online in Florida was actually legal. The difference is, where the previous model created a monopoly for the Seminole tribe, this idea would open up the licensing process to other local and national operators without actually cutting into the Seminole tribe's sports betting business.
Fret not if you're confused by this proposal, which is beginning to make the rounds among sports betting experts zeroed in on the future of legal sports betting in the United States. We're here to explain how everything would work.
Understanding the Florida Sports Gambling Debate
Before we go any further, we must first understand what's happening with sports betting in Florida.
Originally, the state signed sports gambling into law and had it all rolled out by the end of 2021. But under the previous terms, the Seminole tribe was granted a 30-year gaming compact with Florida, approved by governor Ron DeSantis, that effectively gave them a monopoly on the Sunshine State's sports betting industry. This meant that only brick-and-mortar locations run by the Seminole tribe could accept wagers. Residents could not place bets with any of the popular online operators like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars or BetMGM, and they also wouldn't be able to submit wagers at casinos or card rooms controlled by anyone other than the Seminole tribe.
This naturally led to some pretty public disputes. Other tribes wanted the ability to offer sports betting at their establishments. Commercial online bookies also wanted the ability to advertise and sign up users from Florida. Even professional sports teams weren't thrilled with the gaming compact between the state and the Seminole tribe, since it essentially prohibited them from setting up betting kiosks within their venues and, by extension, inherently restricted their capacity to broker lucrative sponsorship deals with commercial sportsbooks.
Facing pressure from all the parties who felt jilted by the Seminole tribe's gaming compact, the U.S. District Court inevitably ruled that the agreement between Florida and the Seminoles constituted an unfair monopoly. Sports betting was then repealed throughout the state before the start of 2022, and its future inside Florida has remained in limbo ever since.
Neither side has been willing to budge on their stance. Both the Seminoles and their opposition, in fact, have spent boatloads of money lobbying against one another, sewing discord that has rendered it impossible to spot an end to the dispute. Uncertainty surrounding legal sports betting in Florida then reached a fever pitch when the Seminoles successfully lobbied against a more open-access gambling initiative that would have appeared on the November 2022 election ballot. Now, as a result, Floridians won't even have a sports betting proposal on which to vote this fall, suggesting the return of legal gambling won't take place until 2023 or 2024 at the absolute earliest.
Should Florida Legalize NFL Betting for Everyone to Help Find a Happy Medium?
It can sometimes feel like there's no end in sight for what's happening in Florida. But legal sports betting is too lucrative an industry for the state to just table the matter. It will remain a hot-button issue until it's figured out, and each day that gambling isn't approved is costing everyone from the local government to the Seminoles and their prospective competitors a bunch of money.
Offering to legalize NFL betting in Florida for the Seminoles and their competitors could be a temporary solution to this problem. Back in the 1970s, Delaware offered legal sports betting for football only on Sundays. The model didn't stick forever—sports betting is fully legal in Delaware now—but it was quite popular at the time. Florida could propose something similar, where the Seminoles retain their exclusive sports betting rights across all other sports but commercial operators and other tribes and casinos are allowed to accept NFL wagers alone on Sundays .
By doing this, the Seminoles would still have most of their monopoly intact. They'd be the only operator in the state allowed to accept bets on the NFL and every other sport Monday through Saturday, and then on Sundays, they'd still be the only licensee permitted to take wagers on every non-NFL league and event. On the other side of the coin, competing online sportsbooks and tribes wouldn't be at full operating capacity, but they'd still be able to capitalize on the sports betting industry's most popular league on its most popular day of the week—an allowance that would still add up to millions of dollars in business each year, according to third party projections.
Could Florida Find a Sports Betting Solution in 2022?
It isn't yet clear how realistic this sports betting model might be. It is only just beginning to make the rounds through Florida. It should also be reiterated that it's only a temporary solution, as competing sportsbooks and tribes will invariably want more licensing power.
As Floridians await to see where the future of betting is headed, though, they can still check out our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. This list includes a handful of operators who will allow people from the state of Florida to set up accounts and place bets.
Now, as for whether Florida might initiate a sports betting compromise by using NFL gambling as a buffer, we should know soon enough. This issue is expected to take center stage when NFL training camps open in August. If Florida hasn't warmed up to the idea by then, it's safe to say the sports betting repeal will last until at least mid to late 2023.
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:
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