Another wrinkle has officially been added to the future of sports betting in Florida.
Two United States congress representatives have proposed a bill that would lift a federal tax currently being assessed to sportsbooks. And though the measure would invariably impact every state, it stands to have a particularly huge effect on places that remain in limbo on the legal gambling front.
This holds especially true for Florida sports betting.
Legal gambling in The Sunshine State is not only in lurch, but it was already implemented way back when. Florida negotiated an exclusive gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe back in 2021. The agreement gave them all rights to on-site sports betting in Florida, but it was overturned by a judge in the District Court after the Seminoles rolled out a sports betting app in partnership with Hard Rock Casino.
The legalization of Florida sports betting has been dormant ever since. At present, the case is currently waiting a decision from the Appeals Court. Regardless of the verdict rendered, it's expected the issue will eventually be elevated to the Supreme Court. However, if this new federal bill gains traction or actually gets passed in the meantime, The Sunshine State could be in for another curveball.
What is the New Sports Betting Bill That's Been Proposed by Congress?
Ever since the federal government overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) back in 2018, the fate of sports betting has been left up to each individual state. That means most of the legislature being passed over the past half-decade has come at the state level. This latest sports betting bill, though, has been introduced at the federal level. And in essence, it would lift a tax that has been placed upon sportsbooks since PASPA was booted in 2018. Bart Shirley from Legal Sports Report provides even more details on the proposed terms:
"US Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) again introduced a bill this week that would end the 0.25% tax placed on all legal sports betting handle. The two are the co-chairs of the Congressional Gaming Caucus, and previously filed this bill together in 2020 and 2021. Titus also sponsored similar legislation in 2014 and 2015, according to her activity record.
"Legal US sports betting operators have paid the feds more than $500 million since the end of PASPA in March 2018, with handle recently eclipsing the $200 billion mark. That does not include the $50 per sportsbook employee that each operator must pay annually. Nearly $235 million of that tax was paid in 2022 alone, as handle hit $93.8 billion last year. That was a significant jump over 2021 with the addition of more states including New York, and should grow more in 2023 with the additions of Massachusetts and Ohio."
Many might be wondering why the federal government would offer to assuage the tax burdens of sportsbooks. After all, as the United States sports betting handle shows, these companies are making money hand over fist. And while the raw dollar amount they have paid over the past five years is absolutely monstrous ($500 million), the actual 0.25 percent tax rate is on the smaller end.
Still, legal sports betting operators in the United States argue that repealing this tax will allow them to better compete with offshore odds providers who aren't subject to the same fees. They might have a point to this end. So many of the sites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks routinely offer more lucrative bonuses for both new and returning customers because they don't have to pay state or federal taxes as part of their operating overhead.
How Federal Taxes Impact Florida Sports Betting
If the Florida sports betting is re-instituted under the previous agreement, the Seminole Tribe will, quite literally, be the only operator in town. They alone will have on-site sportsbooks, and the fate of their online sports betting app will be up in the air.
To date, both the state and Seminole Tribe have shown a reluctance to walk back the terms of their initial gaming compact. Any flexibility they've shown has more to do with perhaps opening up sports betting rights to other on-site properties. The legalization of online sports betting in Florida has been very much a moot point.
There is, however, a chance the prospective reversal of federal taxes could increase The Sunshine State's willingness to change things up. So many are against online sports betting because of the existential threat it poses to tribal operations. The latter cannot compete with the reach of entrenched online companies even if they partner up with them to offer mobile betting apps.
With that said, online sports betting operators might be open to paying a higher state tax if they don't have to forfeit as many fees at the federal level. That money could then, in theory, be dispersed to the state of Florida, which can in turn offer additional tax breaks to the Seminoles and other tribes. Would that be enough of an incentive for The Sunshine State to usher in a more open betting market? Or is the difference ultimately not that significant enough to move their thinking?
Everything Still Hinges on Florida Sports Betting Verdict in the Appeals Court
Of course, for Florida to seriously revisit the terms of legal sports betting, they first need hear the verdict on the case currently being heard in the Appeals Court. And there still isn't a concrete timeline for when that might come down.
This is why so many experts believe Florida sports betting will be delayed until after 2024.
What's more, if the Appeals Court rules to uphold the Seminoles gaming compact, the state will have little reason to revisit their previous terms. A whole new sports betting bill only becomes necessary if the initial agreement is overturned. And yes, in that case, the fate of the congressional sports betting bill will absolutely have an impact on the next round of negotiations.
Thus, the end result here is the same as always: The future of Florida sports betting could be significantly impacted by every new piece of legislature we hear about, but we won't know for sure until the present lawsuit is finally settled.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that will work for all of your sports betting needs: