Florida Sports Betting Dispute May Go All the Way to the United States Supreme Court

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Sep 4, 2022 08:00 PM
Florida Sports Betting Dispute May Go All the Way to the United States Supreme Court

If Florida sports betting is going to return in the near future or even at all, it's going to need help from the United States Supreme Court. Apparently. And that's bad news for anyone hoping legal sports betting in Florida would return within the next few years.

At the end of July 2022, we found out that the U.S. Court of Appeals won't rule on the Florida betting dispute until 2023. That timeline, by itself, means the earliest The Sunshine State can have online sports wagering available to their residents is around early 2024. This projection factors in the time Florida will need to set up an online betting infrastructure, since that wasn't part of their original legal sports wagering model.

However, this all assumes the U.S. Court of Appeals actually rules in favor of sports betting restoration or online gambling in general. There is a very strong chance that they don't. And that decision wouldn't just set back Florida sports betting a year or two. It could result in a half-decade delay—or longer.

At this point, in fact, it doesn't look like sports betting in Florida will be restored, let alone expanded. And that's why we could see this issue move all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.

Quick Overview of Florida Sports Betting Issue

Recounting the crux of the Florida sports betting issue has become a repetitive process. We still have to do it.

When Florida initially rolled out legal sports betting, they only allowed wagers to be placed on-site. Not only that, but governor Rick DeSantis agreed to a 30-year gaming compact that gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to offer in-person sports betting. Neither other tribal-owned casinos nor commercial online sportsbooks were permitted to accept wagers.

This naturally rankled the excluded parties. Other tribes, along with commercial sportsbooks such as DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM, argued this represented an unconstitutional monopoly over Florida's gaming industry. They also argued that the Seminole Tribe already held a monopoly within the casino business, making the sports betting setup that much more unfair. All but one of the casinos in Florida is currently owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe.

As it turns out, a judge agreed with the stance championed predominantly by the commercial sportsbooks. So while Florida didn't roll out in-person sports betting until the end of 2021, the Seminole Tribe was forced to cease those operations before the end of January.

That has created the stalemate we're witnessing today. The Seminole Tribe argues (rightfully) they have a binding agreement with the state of Florida. But opposing sides continue to poke holes in the current gaming compact by citing that it essentially becomes null and void if it does qualify as an unconstitutional monopoly.

Supreme Court Likely to Get Involved in Florida Sports Betting Dispute

Although many have entertained the Supreme Court may need to tackle the Florida sports betting dispute, a world-renowned expert on the matter only recently went on the record declaring such a development would be probable.

Speaking with Yogonet, the Head of U.S. Government Affairs at Sportradar, Brandt Iden, effectively guaranteed the Florida sports betting issue would call for intervention from the Supreme Court. Here's what he said on the matter:

"Florida's been very interesting. I'm not sure that it's played out how anybody expected, and the timeline has now been set for the appeal. We will not see a decision in Florida, in my opinion, until mid-2023. And where does it go from there? I'm of the opinion this probably ends up at some stage in the US Supreme Court, maybe later in 2023, maybe in the first part of 2024. And depending on how that all shakes out, this may end up having to go back to the voters in some sort of ballot initiative like you're seeing in California. That could put us well into 2024 before you see any sort of movement in Florida. This is going to be a long process. I think the courts are going to certainly take their time with this."

Brandt alludes to the most discouraging part of Florida's sports betting dispute heading to the Supreme Court: The timeline. The Supreme Court won't get ahold of this issue until after the Court of Appeals issues their ruling...about one year from now. On top of that, the Supreme Court isn't expected to offer a definitive resolution. Rather than restore or expand sports betting in Florida by their own hand, they're more likely to have voters in The Sunshine State make the decision for them.

Bleak Timeline for Sports Betting in Florida

By now you're probably asking: "So, when might Florida actually legalize sports betting, be it online or in-person?" Well, let's do a little bit of math.

We basically know the Supreme Court must get involved. We also know their involvement won't take place before 2024. Beyond that, we can reasonably assume they'll have Florida residents vote on the matter. That puts Florida sports betting approval on track for 2025...at the earliest. However, even that might be ambitious.

We still don't know when exactly the Supreme Court will be forced or compelled to intervene. If they don't rule on the issue until the middle or end of 2024, the state of Florida won't be ticketed for another major ballot until 2026. A special vote can always be held before then, but that presumes the Florida sports betting issue is considered urgent enough for that level of treatment.

Realistically, Florida might not see legal sports betting resume or expand before...2027 or 2028. Seriously. That's why we strongly recommend checking out our reviews of the top online sportsbooks in 2022. Most of these sites allow Florida residents to register for accounts and begin processing transactions.

Failing that, unless you're willing to travel out of state, it will be a loooong time before you can bet on sports in Florida.

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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