It once looked like legal sports betting in Florida was on track to stay, but it has since been repealed without any concrete timetable—or even a guarantee—of return. All the while, Florida is missing out on a ton of legal sports betting revenue. The numbers may surprise you. But what do they say about the future of sports betting in Florida?
The case of legal sports betting in Florida is truly a unique one. The state initially greenlit the entire process in May 2021, and legal sports betting even went live at one point. Since then, though, a battle between the Seminole Tribe, which was essentially granted a monopoly on legal sports betting in the state, and their potential competitors has broken out. The end result has been a repeal of online betting in Florida, with the Seminole Tribe even being forced to take down their mobile sports betting app. And with this war of ideologies still raging on, we can't help but acknowledge that Florida is missing out on a ton of sports betting revenue.
It isn't just about the numbers, either. This current legal battle has implications extending well beyond 2022. Depending on how everything shakes out, in fact, it could be a while—as in, years—before sports betting in Florida is fully legal.
How Much Sports Betting Revenue is Florida Missing Out On?
When a federal judge first overturned a law to legalize sports betting in Florida, the state was on track to earn more than $186 million in tax revenue during the first year of operation, which would have been paid out by the lone sportsbook operator, in the Seminole Tribe. While they were still able to reap the benefits for part of 2021, since legal sports betting was live for a short time, Florida missed out on a massive chunk of that nine-figure projection.
What's more, this says nothing of future sports betting revenue in Florida. Many experts predicted that their sports betting market would outpace the growth of other legal sports betting throughout the USA, including massive hubs like New York, at least earlier on in the process.
Granted, these forecasts could have been off. It can also take slightly longer than expected for new betting markets to take off. Financial specialists typically use inaugural tentpole events, such as the Super Bowl, to gauge how legal sports betting will fair in the coming years. Florida, however, never had that opportunity. So not only are they without legal sports betting right now, but their tax-revenue potential is both a huge missed opportunity and still a mystery.
Why Did Florida Reverse Legal Sports Betting?
All that's happening with sports betting in Florida at the moment boils down to access.
Initially, the Seminole Tribe was awarded what amounted to a monopoly on the sports-betting market. They signed a 30-year agreement with the state that essentially made them the region's exclusive provider.
This, naturally, didn't sit well with other top online sportsbooks hoping to crack the Florida market. Companies like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, etc., took exception to the state's setup with the Seminole Tribe and have since spent a ton of money lobbying to reverse the parameters. The Seminole Tribe has, in turn, funneled a ton of their own money into fending off the open-door policy potential competitors are fighting to legalize.
To this point, the Seminole Tribe has been successful. While they needed to shut down their Hard Rock-operated mobile sportsbook, they still have profits from their variety of casino businesses. They would of course prefer to branch out to legal sports betting, but the enduring absence of it in Florida is hurting companies that don't already have some sort of foothold on the state's gambling scene more than it damages the Seminole Tribe.
What's Next for Legal Sports Betting in Florida?
There isn't much good news for those who support legalizing sports betting in Florida.
A recent initiative spearheaded by DraftKings and FanDuel failed to get the required number of signatures to make the November 2022 ballot. This means we're unlikely to see any movement on Florida's sports betting status before the end of the year.
On the bright side, Florida isn't California. There is already precedent within the state for the legalization of sports betting. This entire stalemate can still be kiboshed if all the opposing sides are able to find common ground.
Unfortunately, however, that doesn't appear very likely. The Seminole Tribe clearly isn't willing to soften their stance; they would have likely offered to make concessions on their agreement with Florida before having their sports betting license halted at the end 2021. Similarly, competitors like FanDuel and DraftKings may be unwilling to accept whatever adjusted terms the Seminole Tribe and the state might offer. Given the rate at which sportsbooks are taxed, most won't subscribe to limitations, such as not being able to accept bets at in-person kiosks or restricting the areas in which they can operate throughout the state.
This entire situation is very fluid—more open-ended and subject to change on a whim than other states going through somewhat similar battles. With that said, now that residents of Florida won't be able to vote on the matter in 2022, the only possible resolution entails compromise from the opposing sides, followed by cooperation from the state government. And given how many different parties must see eye-to-eye and work together to overturn this matter, it's tough to envision legal sports betting returning to Florida before the middle of 2023.
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