Sun Sets On Legislative Session Without Florida Sports Betting Deal

Posted on March 20, 2020

Another legislative session ended last week without a deal to legalize Florida sports betting.

Despite the usual chatter about behind-the-scene negotiations on a comprehensive gambling deal that would include Florida sports betting, there was no attempt at an agreement as the session came to an end on March 13.

For most of the session, any discussions on a gambling deal occurred between legislative leaders behind closed doors. Senate President Bill Galvano indicated that lawmakers finally involved the Seminole Tribe in those discussions with 10 days left in the session.

That wasn’t enough time to get a deal done. Unless a special session is called to finalize a compact with the tribe, Florida will miss out on the approximately $330 million in annual payments the tribe made the state previously.

Florida Lottery prohibition bill fails

Last year, Sen. Wilton Simpson reached broad parameters for a deal with the Seminole. The state would pledge to shut down designated player games at pari-mutuel facilities, and the tribe would up its payment to the state to $500 million.

Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to sign off on the agreement. In response, the tribe ceased making its revenue-sharing payment to the state.

Without money coming in from the Seminole, some lawmakers thought of moving forward with sports betting in Florida without the tribe. Entering this session, Sen. Jeff Brandes introduced legislation to legalize sports betting for the Florida Lottery.

While that sports betting bill went nowhere, S 991 to prohibit the lottery from authorizing games in which the winner is chosen on the basis of the activities or outcomes of a sporting event got a successful committee vote.

While S 991 also died at session’s end, perhaps the Seminole made their point that the lottery will be left out of Florida sports betting before they will.

Hope for Florida sports betting in special session?

Marc Dunbar, a gaming attorney who represents the Seminole but does not speak officially on behalf of the tribe, told Legal Sports Report that DeSantis needs to be the one working on a deal state to sovereign.

That has yet to happen, though the governor has expressed interest in a comprehensive gambling deal getting done.

Dunbar noted that a special session to address gambling is unlikely during an election year. However, economic impacts from coronavirus could motivate all parties to complete a deal this year.

Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood continued to operate in Florida amidst the coronavirus pandemic until Friday. The tribe announced it would close at 6 p.m. local time.

They previously implemented social distancing measures within the casino, similar to what Nevada attempted to do with its facilities prior to a required 30-day shutdown.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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