Everyone waiting on legal sports betting in Florida should brace themselves before reading this. Because unfortunately, the latest news isn't good. Florida sports betting isn't expected to receive a Court of Appeals ruling until 2023...at least.
This comes as a major blow for anyone who had been holding out hope the issue might reach a resolution sooner, if only so they could have clarity on which way the state was leaning. Truthfully, though, the entire Florida sports betting delay is uniquely frustrating. We're not talking about a state that has refused to legalize it. Nor is this a state that's dragging their feet to implement it. Florida actually joined the ranks of legal sports betting in the United States just a few months ago. They rolled it out at the end of 2021, only for a judge to repeal the setup and the gaming compact governor Ron DeSantis agreed to with the Seminole Tribe before the end of January.
To actually have sports betting up and running in some form only to see it revoked is tough. And that's the root of the issue facing Florida now. The parties on opposite sides of this issue don't appear willing to compromise. That puts the state in a rough spot. They have no idea how to prioritize or address what is a contentious stalemate.
That lack of clarity—and legal standing—has seemingly incentivized Florida to back burner the issue altogether. Why waste time on addressing legal sports betting if there's no realistic compromise on the table? Based off the latest United States Court of Appeals brief schedule, the government sure seems to be thinking along those lines. At present, opening briefs for Florida sports betting will not begin until August, which means they won't wrap up until November.
What does this mean for the future of sports betting in Florida? Is 2023 even a realistic timeline for legal sports betting to return? Could the state be facing an even longer delay? And what exactly is the issue here anyway? We've got all the answers below.
Why is Florida Sports Betting No Longer Legalized?
Before we get into the ramifications of the United States Court of Appeals timeline for discussing Florida sports betting, we must first understand why we're here in the first place.
Initially, legal sports betting in Florida called only for in-person wagering at casinos owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe. They negotiated a gaming compact with the state that would last three decades. Under this agreement, they paid a set tax rate and a handful of other fees in exchange for exclusive rights to offer sports betting. This not only meant that companies such as DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM couldn't operate within Florida, but it also prohibited legal online sports betting altogether.
Retail sportsbooks argued that this was an unfair monopoly. They also pointed out that Florida was doing themselves a disservice by not having any online sports betting imprint. And finally, they explained why they didn't think the Seminole Tribe was entitled to exclusive sports betting rights when they currently almost have a monopoly on casinos. All but one of the casinos in Florida are operated by the Seminole Tribe, and the local government has so far rebuffed attempts from corporate casino companies to set up shop in The Sunshine State.
In response to all of this, the Seminole Tribe has argued they're doing the state a favor by controlling access to gambling. Online sportsbooks don't operate inside Florida. That means they don't generate jobs or create tourist attractions. They pay their licensing fees and tax rates and then all of those profits get funneled elsewhere. By limiting legal sports betting to in-person, the Seminole Tribe believes they maximize the revenue stream Florida stands to gain from sports betting, since they do generate jobs and their casinos attract tourists. They have also been adamant that the gaming compact they agreed to with DeSantis is binding, and that they have a legal right to exclusive sports betting.
A judge didn't agree with the Seminole Tribe—at least not inarguably. Barely a month after sports betting was rolled out, a ruling came down that put a pause on all operations in Florida. The fate of legalized sports gambling in the state has remained in limbo ever since.
The Earliest Florida Can Expect Legal Online Sports Betting to Return Is...
Deep breaths, everyone.The answer is 2024. And that might be ambitious.
If the Court of Appeals rules in favor of sports betting without online operations, then business can resume almost immediately, since the Seminole Tribe is already set up to offer it. But if the next ruling opens up the door for online sports betting, it will take at least a year for Florida to install the necessary infrastructure and go through the licensing process.
And this all presumes the Seminole Tribe won't push back against another ruling that doesn't favor them. They probably will, unless a common ground is found between now and the Court of Appeals briefing. Realistically, then, the future of Florida sports betting could be tied up in litigation for years.
Fortunately, Floridians are not without options. In addition to visiting some of the neighboring states with legal sports betting, they can check out our reviews of the best online sportsbooks. Many of these odds providers allow people in Florida to register for accounts and place their bets.
In fact, if we're being honest, we strongly endorse exploring all your alternatives should you call Florida home. There's no guarantee this entire debacle reaches a conclusion with a Court of Appeals decision this coming November. On the contrary, depending on how much lobbying is done by the opposition thereafter, the Court of Appeals ruling could merely mark the beginning of this fight between the Seminole Tribe and commercial sportsbooks.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that meets all of your sports betting needs:
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