Florida has had trouble with passing gaming expansions in the state before
Legal Sports Report

Florida Sports Betting Bills Pop Up For 2020; State Lottery Would Be In Charge

Florida sports betting 2020

Florida will take a crack at legalizing sports betting via the state’s lottery, in bills filed in the state legislature on Monday. But its prospects seem uncertain given the political landscape in the state.

Florida sports betting bills, at a glance

You can see the bills from state Sen. Jeff Brandes here:

Key points from the legislation:

  • Sports betting would be done via the lottery and additional licensees authorized by the lottery. It would allow for online betting.
  • A license fee costs $100,000.
  • Licensees would pay a tax rate of 15% of revenue.

The legislation faces some major hurdles, however.

The backstory for Florida sports betting

Florida lawmakers worked on sports betting legislation last year, but it had been held up in negotiations between the Seminole Tribe — which operates casinos under a compact — and the state.

The new effort might represent a path to getting sports betting done without the tribe’s approval, although such a tack could be fraught with peril given how politically powerful the Seminoles are in the state. The Seminoles have steadfastly maintained they have exclusivity over offering sports betting in the state, an idea that has not been challenged in practice.

The tribe is currently not paying the state because of an ongoing legal battle. The newest proposed budget does not include money from Seminole casinos.

There also the matter of Amendment 3, which passed last November:

“This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.”

There is at least some argument that sports betting is not “casino gambling” but it creates yet another issue in an already complicated situation.

The state has tried on multiple occasions to legalize daily fantasy sports, as well, but those efforts have largely been thwarted by the Seminoles.

In any event, doing sports betting without the Seminoles’ blessing would seemingly be a non-starter and create even more bad blood as the state hopes for payments from the tribe’s gambling facilities to resume in the future.

Big states try to make sports betting progress

While sports betting has expanded rapidly around the US — with 19 states having legal betting live or will launch next year — progress has been difficult to come by in the four largest states in the union.

That includes:

  • New York, where legislation to legalize online betting failed last year; a new effort will take place this spring. There are legal sportsbooks upstate, however.
  • California, where there have been two different constitutional amendments proposed.
  • Texas, where the legislature doesn’t even meet again until 2021.

With Florida included, that’s states with more than 100 million in population that do not have access to legal online betting.

Correction: This story originally said the state and operators would share revenue 50-50. Revenue is actually taxed at a rate of 15%. Legal Sports Report regrets the error.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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