Florida Sports Betting Continues to Face Legal Challenges

Florida Sports Betting Continues to Face Legal Challenges

Legal sports betting in Florida might be years — not months — away from coming to fruition. When a federal court of appeals blocked the Seminole Tribe from operating sports wagering, in partnership with the Hard Rock Sportsbook back in December 2021, there was some optimism that the conflict was temporary. Now? It might be a long-term issue, which casts serious doubts about the return of sports betting to sunny Florida.

Seminole Tribe Not Going Down Without A Fight

With millions of dollars — and potentially billions — on the line, the Seminole Tribe is fighting tooth and nail to earn back its sports betting privileges. The Tribe submitted a compact through the federal courts, which many predict will eventually have to be decided by the US Supreme Court. Though, as you'd expect, that's a lengthy process to get there. 

In the meantime, the Seminole Tribe has gone on the offensive. Just recently, it said it would stop making gaming payments to the state of Florida while the validity of its 2021 compact is working its way through the federal courts. In other words, they're playing "hardball" — and who could blame them given the money opportunity at hand here.

No one knows what'll happen, but most are in agreement it'll be a waiting game until anything is decided. Legal sports betting in Florida in 2022 feels very, very unlikely.

Hard Rock Takes Betting Ambitions Outside Of Florida

With a sports betting monopoly in the United States' third-most-populous state, the Hard Rock was primed to benefit greatly from Florida's legalized push into sports wagering. That's off the table for now and the foreseeable future, but Hard Rock has a plan B and C, that's for sure.

In the past two months, Hard Rock has gone live with legal sports betting in two other states — Arizona and Virginia. That brings its sports betting foothold up to four states (the other being Iowa and New Jersey). Though the company isn't giving up on its Florida ambitions, at least not publically that is. 

“Our partners at the Seminole Tribe of Florida are confident in the merits of the case, which has the support of both the federal government and the state of Florida, and we look forward to the appellate court considering the matter,” said Matt Primeaux, the executive managing director of Hard Rock. With a population exceeding over 21 million, Florida is certainly as big a "fish" as Hard Rock can currently catch across the sports betting landscape in the USA.  

Different Voter Ballot Falls Short

Outside the legal back-and-forth between the Seminole Tribe and federal courts, there was an alternate path to legalization for sports gambling — the old-fashioned citizens' vote. However, in order to actually get in front of Florida voters to begin with, a certain number of signatures were needed. If the requirement was met, the issue could've been voted on during the 2022 midterm elections.

But that route officially failed too. Despite strong backing from two sportsbook powerhouses — DraftKings (who dumped $22.7 million into the campaign) and FanDuel (added another $14.5 million) — the Florida Education Champions committee missed wildly on attaining the minimum of 900,000 signatures needed. By the last count in late January, there were less than 500,000 signatures total. For what it's worth, the committee cited an outbreak of COVID-19 for missing the mark (yeah, right). If this would've ended up on the ballot, the Sunshine State's betting prospects would be open to other parties beyond just Hard Rock, but alas, it was not meant to be. 

The next time a political committee can lead another signature-led initiative is 2024. This adds only more pressure for Seminole Tribe to win out because waiting another two years feels like an eternity for sports betting enthusiasts inside the state. 

Plenty At Stake As Florida's Population Surges

Never mind Florida's number-three-sized population in the United States, it's also in growth mode. You may have heard it amind the pandemic, but both Florida and Texas became prime destinations for defectors of costly states like California and New York. In fact, Florida is the seventh-fastest growing state country-wide

Florida has also emerged as one of the most important states in terms of professional sports. In addition to three NFL teams – the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Florida is also home to two NHL teams, two MLB teams, and two NBA teams, as well as an array of NCAA powerhouses.

In the absence of legal local sportsbooks, Florida residents do enjoy alternatives when it comes to getting in on sports betting action. Sports fans living in North Florida can make the drive across state lines to take advantage of brick-and-mortar sportsbooks in both Mississippi and Georgia.

And of course, there's no shortage of offshore sportsbooks ready and willing to take bets from Florida bettors. Matter of fact, Google Trends data from 2022 showed that the popular Bovada sportsbook accounted for half of all sports betting searches inside the State. For more offshore wagering options, please reference the underneath table.