All throughout the sports industry, there has been perhaps no bigger topic than the future of legal sports betting in Florida. Their case is unlike any other in history. This isn't just another state trying to join the ranks of legal sports betting in the U.S.A. Florida already had legal sports betting. It was implemented in the latter half of 2021. But then, just as quickly as it started, it was pulled back. Residents in the state cannot currently place legal wagers, and all signs point toward that not changing any time soon. The latest news, in particular, is especially damning, because an appeal on behalf of legal Florida sports betting has officially been denied by a federal court.
This doesn't change much in the eyes of many. Most Floridians were already bracing for a long, drawn-out process that pits the Seminole Tribe against other tribal casinos and larger online sportsbooks who weren't happy with the terms of the initial gaming compact the Seminoles reached with the state.
But now that a successful appeal is currently off the table, the wait figures to be even longer and even uglier—and the future of sports betting in Florida has, somehow, gotten even hazier as a result.
Impact of Federal Court Denying Florida Sports Betting Appeal
On Thursday, June 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed one of the appeals that was filed against Florida following the state's decision to pullback legal online and on-site sports betting. This is just the latest blow for those hoping to gain some clarity on the future of sports betting in the Sunshine State, because while this wasn't the primary appeal filed against the decision, it does suggest the timeline for the legalization of sports gambling won't be concretely hashed out until the entire entire appeals process has played out.
The issue at hand in all of the open appeals—as well as the recently dismissed one—hasn't changed. Florida is still navigating flak for the gaming compact that they signed with the Seminoles, which granted the tribe exclusivity on all sports betting offerings for 30 years. This deal, which was spearheaded by governor Ron DeSantis, was widely and loudly opposed by other tribes and corporate sportsbooks such as DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars and many others. They argued, and have continued to argue, that the compact gave the Seminoles an unfair monopoly over the sports betting industry, and that the state should be forced to open up sports gambling licenses to other operators.
A U.S. District Court judge eventually agreed with this stance and called for a halt to the Seminole Tribe's sports betting to close out 2021. Nothing has changed in the seven months since. Florida doesn't have any legal sports betting up and running, a step back that can only be remedied by the legalization of a separate sports betting bill or a renegotiation of the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state that was just thrown out.
Will Seminole Tribe and Florida Renegotiate Terms of Gaming Compact?
Optimists will point out that the Seminole Tribe has plenty of incentive to rework the terms of the gaming compact. While exclusivity over sports betting operations would have been fairly lucrative, opening the door to other tribes and sportsbooks should be better than having total control of a market that no longer exists.
Put another way: Shouldn't there be room for everyone when the alternative is nothing for anyone?
That logic tracks in many ways. Still, the Seminoles have spent plenty of money fighting against lobbying from other tribes and corporate sportsbooks. They want Florida to uphold the gaming compact both sides agreed upon and seem prepared to dig their heels into the stand. Opponents of expanding sports betting licenses, in fact, played a key role in blocking another sports betting initiative backed by FanDuel and DraftKings that, if passed, would've made the Florida ballot in November 2022.
Assuming this keeps up, Florida cannot reasonably expect to get legal sports betting before 2024, when another proposal would be eligible to get voted on and subsequently passed.
The Fight for Florida Legal Sports Betting Isn't Over
Of course, just because it might take a few years for Florida to reinstate legal sports betting doesn't mean it actually will. As we already mentioned, there are a handful of other appeals awaiting a verdict in the U.S. Court of the Appeals.
The latest appeal to be dismissed was not the primary measure, either. That one is set to get a verdict sometime near the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023. If it is successful, Florida would be eligible to reinstall sports betting almost immediately, both on-site and in-person.
Unfortunately, it isn't yet clear which way the federal court will lean. Pressure is mounting at all levels to legalize sports betting knowing that residents are placing wagers anyway. Even in Florida, people can browse through our reviews of the top online sportsbooks and, inevitably, find one that will allow them to set up an account and submit bets. The current blocking of domestic sports gambling isn't so much prohibitive as a minor nuisance.
On the flip side, the Seminole Tribe's gaming compact with Florida violates the strict letter of the law by creating a monopoly. That could make any judge uncomfortable with reinstating sports betting under the current terms. So unless the Seminole is willing to budge on the exact nature of their 30-year gaming compact, Floridians are set to be without legal sports betting for a long, long time.
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