The Push to Expand Legal Sports in Florida is Getting Intense

The Push to Expand Legal Sports in Florida is Getting Intense

There has been a battle over the future of sports betting in Florida for quite some time now. The jist of the issue: The Seminole Tribe currently has a monopoly on all sports betting rights and wants to keep it that way, but sports venues, online sportsbooks and pari-mutuel establishments want to accept wagers, as well. The fight culminated in the Seminole Tribe halting their online sports-betting operation at the start of the December after a surprise ruling from a judge. So...what's next?

After months and months of back and forth in the media and in the courts, the push to expand legal sports betting in Florida is getting intense. 

Proponents of widespread sports gambling throughout the state are sponsoring an initiative that currently has signatures in the high six figures. This proposal would green light sports betting in Florida at select sports venues, pari-mutuel facilities and licensed online sportsbooks. 

Led by an organization called Florida Education Champions, the measure must be submitted no later than December 30, 2021 to qualify for the state's 2022 ballot? Will it be done in time? What are the current sports betting laws in Florida? When will sports betting expansion take effect, if at all? We've got answers and analysis on all these questions, among others.

Florida's Current Sports Betting Laws

Most recently, only the Seminole Tribe was allowed by law to accept on-site and online bets at their sportsbooks, which was partnered with the Hard Rock sportsbook and casino. However, in recent years, supporters of wider-spread sports betting have argued that this constituted a monopoly, and that Florida should join the growing list of places in the United States with legal online sports betting across multiple providers outside a singular tribe.

Earlier this year, it looked like Florida was on track to do just that. They spent a bulk of 2021 setting up licenses with certain sportsbooks and planning for the implementation of sports betting at online sportsbooks, live-sport venues and pari-mutuel establishments.

Still, the Seminole Tribe continued to lobby and put pressure on the local government to reverse their decision. And they were eventually successful. In a surprise move this past November, a judge overturned a law that would've allowed legal online sports betting throughout the state of Florida before the end of 2021.

Backed by sportsbooks and a slew of other pro-gambling organizations, the businesses and prospective linemakers impacted by this reversal campaigned for the Seminole Tribe to have their sports-betting operation suspended, as well. That push was also successful. 

All of which has left Florida without any sort of legal sports betting to close out the year. Fear not, though. There are alternatives while Florida is stuck in this holding pattern. Just check out our reviews of the best online sportsbooks until you find one at which you can sign up.

Impact of Florida's Sports Betting Petition

The minds behind Florida's latest sports-betting initiative are resting their hopes on the tax revenue the state stands to gain if they ratify betting at online sportsbooks, pari-mutuel sites and professional venues. Unless this amendment passes, the state cannot begin the process of accepting sportsbook applications, handing out licenses and setting up online-betting infrastructures.

If this bill does receive the okay, it mandates that all online sports betting tax revenue will be dedicated to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund of the Department of Education. Experts have projected the money made off this tax will be in the high nine figures to low billions of dollars over the next half-decade or so.

Per the amendment, online sports betting in Florida "could be conducted by (a) Native American tribes and (b) entities that have existed for at least one year and that have conducted sports betting in at least 10 other states. 

In the event the bill passes, entities who qualify for a sports betting license must be operational no more than eight months after the amendment goes into effect. Should they be unable to meet that deadline, they'll have to wait nearly two years and receive a specialized state authorization before setting up shop in Florida. 

Will the Florida Sports Betting Bill Pass?

It's tough to answer this question right now.

Before the push to expand sports betting in Florida can even be decided upon, it first needs to receive the necessary amount of signatures. Currently, that threshold is set at slightly more than 891,000 Florida residents. And as of December 23, the sports-betting initiative has a little fewer than 300,000 names on its list.

That's a pretty big gap to make up. And supporters don't have a lot of time to do it. If the initiative isn't submitted by December 30, it won't make the legislation committee's February 2022 docket, which could set back the legalization of sports in Florida by months, if not over a year.

What's Next for Sports Betting in Florida?

Even more controversy awaits the potential legalization of sports betting in Florida as we close out 2021.

The Seminole Tribe is trying their hardest to block the current sports-betting initiative and restore their primary hold on sports-gambling operations throughout the state. Many believe they are going to be successful. They have resorted to proactive tactics when it comes to blocking the addition of signatures to the sports betting petition, and there have even been reports of behind-the-scenes intimidation.

Whether these rumors are true or not doesn't actually matter. Florida faces an uphill battle to expand sports-betting operations. 

As of now, there's a good chance the most recent movement won't have the traction necessary to push for a change in policy at the start of 2022. And if that happens, there's a distinct possibility that the Seminole Tribe will get their sports-betting operations reinstated and maintain their hold on the Florida gambling industry until at least 2023.

Can't place sports bets in Florida? Don't worry. Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that'll accept your wager: