Florida sports betting might yet happen, but it’s not as close as some reports suggest.
State legislators are discussing the possibility of a sweeping gambling expansion that would give the Seminole Tribe exclusivity over Florida sports betting.
Senate President Bill Galvano asserted that it is premature to suggest that there is a negotiated agreement between the chambers.
In a statement provided to Legal Sports Report, Galvano refuted a Politico report that such a deal is even close.
“What has been reported, thus far, is chatter based on a lot of misinformation,” Galvano said. “Gaming negotiations are extremely complicated and, while I believe the efforts are worthy, it is also important to be realistic about where we are.”
Background of Florida’s sports betting efforts
Last year, Galvano tasked Sen. Wilton Simpson to negotiate with the Seminole on a new compact.
Simpson struck a tentative deal with the tribe in which it would up its payment to the state to at least $500 million a year. Florida sports betting would have been allowed at the state’s racetracks and jai alai frontons with the tribe acting as a hub. In return, the state would shut down “designated player” card games at pari-mutuel facilities.
Gov. Rick DeSantis refused to sign off on the deal. In response, the Seminole ceased making its approximately $350 million annual payment to the state.
Florida got in this situation when a US District Court judge ruled in 2016 that the state breached tribal exclusivity on banked card games by allowing pari-mutuel facilities to use a designated player system as a workaround. Until a new compact is reached, the tribe isn’t obligated to pay anything to the state.
Also, because of a ballot initiative passed by voters in 2018, any gambling expansion outside of tribal casinos and the lottery must be initiated by voters, not the legislature.
Where sports wagering discussions stand
The Florida Legislature used Simpson’s agreement with the tribe from last year as a starting point to begin discussions this session.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the latest FL sports betting proposal allows the tribe to serve as the host for mobile sports betting statewide. The tribe would then resume and substantially increase its revenue-sharing payments to the state.
But the proposal would allow pari-mutuels to continue offering the designated player card games, which doesn’t seem to be a point the Seminole would agree to, given past lawsuits.
The Seminole Tribe is not yet part of the discussions, nor is the governor who nixed last year’s proposal, which shows how far it has to go.
“To my knowledge, there have been no discussions with the Seminole Tribe since session last year, nor have we included any money in our budget from the Seminole Tribe,” Galvano said. “If, through discussions, there is at some point an agreement between chambers, then conversations with the Tribe may start.”