Florida Sports Betting
As quickly as it arrived, Florida sports betting is gone. Hard Rock took down its sportsbook app in December 2021 after a series of court rulings against the legality of sports betting in Florida.
The app was live for just over a month. The Seminole Tribe is currently appealing the court decision that vacated the 2021 Florida gambling compact. However, the appeals process is moving slowly, making it unlikely that online sports betting returns to Florida in 2022.
In the meantime, FanDuel and DraftKings admitted defeat on a ballot measure that would legalize widespread online sports betting. As of now, no other initiatives are in the works. Read on for all the latest updates on Florida sports betting.
- The US Court of Appeals will decide the immediate fate of legal sports betting in Florida after a 2021 compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe was struck down by a federal judge.
- Florida’s legislative session begins in March, but there will not be any sports betting movement until the legal dispute is resolved. As of now there is no projected resolution date.
- Hard Rock Sportsbook was the only active app during Florida’s brief time with legal and available sports betting. It remains to be seen what other apps, if any, will launch in the state.
Is sports betting legal in Florida?
Yes (and no). That’s for the courts to decide. In the meantime, there are no options to bet legally in Florida at this time. No app is available in the state after Hard Rock Sportsbook was discontinued in December 2021. The 2021 compact that would bring statewide mobile Florida sports betting to the Sunshine State was filed with the Federal Register in August 2021 but was vacated by a federal court a few months later. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is appealing the case. This means that for all intents and purposes, sports betting is not available in Florida until the lawsuits are finalized and the appeals process is complete.
How did we get here?
While discussions in most states take place in public legislative hearings, sports betting negotiations in Florida happened nearly entirely behind the scenes. Any deal for sports betting in Florida required negotiating a larger gambling compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe.
That is exactly what happened in April 2021, when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new compact with the Seminole that would bring some form of statewide mobile wagering to Florida. State legislators approved the deal in May 2021 and the US Department of Interior allowed the tribal compact that would legalize FL sports betting to be published in the Federal Register in August. This was not approval but did allow the compact to proceed.
That move passed questions regarding the definition of mobile sports betting under tribal gaming law to the court system. Local groups mounted legal challenges to FL sports betting, claiming it violates a constitutional amendment requiring voter approval or that it violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. A federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and the compact was vacated pending appeals by both the tribe and the DOI. This is where we stand as of Mar 2023. It is unknown when legal sports betting in Florida will return but it is not likely to happen in 2022.
What’s happening in Florida sports betting right now
- March 16, 2023 — Two Florida schools are taking part in 2023’s March Madness as Florida Atlantic (No. 9, East Region) and Miami (No. 5, Midwest Region) both made it into the tournament. Miami is taking on Drake and FAU is taking on Memphis.
- March 7, 2023 — Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley was reinstated by the NFL after his 1-year suspension for gambling. As a member of the Atlanta Falcons, Ridley was suspended prior to last season after he bet multiple parlays in November 2021.
- February 28, 2023 — With selection Sunday approaching, the University of Miami is the only Florida college ranked among the top 25 college basketball teams. Residents of Florida, however, will almost certainly not be able to legally bet on the NCAA tournament.
- February 17, 2023 — Another Super Bowl has come and gone without legal sports betting in Florida. Despite missing out on the revenue from the biggest sporting event of the year, it doesn’t look like a resolution is coming before the next one: March Madness.
- January 26, 2022 — Though Florida’s legislative session begins at the beginning of March, supporters of legal sports betting will need to wait a while longer as no legislative action will be taken until the court situation between the Seminole Tribe and West Flagler Associates is settled.
- December 14, 2022 — Oral arguments were held in the case over the 2021 gaming compact. After months of back and forth, both sides presented arguments before three judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
- October 28, 2022 — There has been no movement on sports betting, but the November elections could have a big impact on that.
- October 6, 2022 — The plaintiff in the case against the 2021 gaming compact, West Flagler Associates, filed its response to both the federal government’s and Seminole Tribe of Florida’s appeals. The 110-page brief contains three arguments, two directed at the government and the third at the tribe.
Online sportsbooks in Florida
Florida online sportsbooks at one point numbered just one, and it came with a familiar name: Hard Rock Sportsbook. However, the app is no longer available in the state as court hearings and appeals continue.
The Seminole Tribe operates the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, where it is by far the most recognized brand. Because the Seminole enjoyed exclusivity in offering sports betting in Florida, the Hard Rock Sportsbook brand was the foremost among options presented.
The deal approved between the state government and the tribe allows for other Florida sportsbook brands to participate. The trick, however, is that these brands must reach a deal with the Seminole to be allowed access to the Florida sports betting market.
For example, if DraftKings Sportsbook or BetMGM Sportsbook wants to offer mobile sports betting in FL, that company must agree to a deal that will pay the Seminole a percentage of revenue in exchange for the ability to operate in Florida.
The status of Florida sports betting
Sports betting in Florida launched officially in November 2021 with the arrival of the Hard Rock Sportsbook app; it has since been discontinued. State legislators approved a new gaming deal between the state government and the tribe operating Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
After a deal was not reached in 2019, the Seminoles announced that they would not make their annual gaming payment of approximately $330 million to the state in 2020. A new compact to restart the payment was signed in 2021 that covers a comprehensive list of gaming priorities for both the state and the tribe.
FL sports betting received legislative approval and was published in the Federal Register but remains in limbo for the time being due to lawsuits. The launch of Hard Rock online sportsbook is complicated, however, by two primary factors.
First, state voters approved an amendment to the Florida constitution in 2018 that gave them the power to decide whether any future gaming expansion could happen. Interest groups in the state vowed to challenge the new gaming compact and potential launch of Florida sportsbooks on the grounds that the deal also must receive approval on the ballot.
Second, legal experts do not agree on whether it is legal for tribes to facilitate mobile sports betting on off-reservation lands. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) could limit wagering to within the borders of a tribe’s physical lands but this question remains open and undecided right now.
Lawsuits based on one or both of the above factors eventually halted Florida sports betting and vacated the tribal gaming compact. Appeals are in process, but the process is slow.
Recent Florida sports betting news
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Florida sports betting bills
An enabling bill ratified the tribal compact with the state:
Three bills sought to legalize sports betting in Florida prior to the deal reached between the Seminole Tribe and the state. The bills essentially were abandoned once it became clear sports wagering would be included in the tribal compact:
The legislative effort to move FL sports betting forward received relatively little consideration. Two bills died in committee early in the session:
Florida sports betting law
The law governing Florida sports betting technically exists via the tribal compact reached in 2021.
The compact calls for the Seminole Indians to share 13.75% of sports betting revenue with the state, as long as the Seminole sign sports betting contracts with at least three parimutuel operators within three months.
Those agreements would allow parimutuels to launch skins of their own but require bets on the Seminole server. Without those arrangements, that revenue share would increase by 2% until such deals are in place. The parimutuels would get to keep 40% of sports betting revenue.
SB 2-A made into law the new gaming compact. The Seminole Indians own exclusivity to run FL sports betting.
Legal sports betting options in Florida
Aside from betting on horse racing, there are no legal sportsbook websites that accept bets from anyone within the state of Florida.
There are illegal offshore websites that offer sports betting in Florida. They do not hold a license from any US jurisdiction to legally accept bets from residents.
Without regulation from the state, these offshore betting apps can’t be counted on to pay out winnings and have been known to disappear with people’s money.
The only safe and protected way to bet on sports in the United States is to do so with a licensed operator.
Many Florida pari-mutuel locations offer betting on Jai alai, a sport similar to racquetball in which players use curved baskets strapped to their hands to launch hard rubber balls at fast speeds on a three-walled court.
Most popular sports to bet on in FL
There’s little doubt that legal Florida sports betting would be a hit.
With more than 21 million people, Florida is the third-most populous state in the country following California and Texas. It’s also the second most popular state as a tourist destination behind California.
NFL betting in Florida
Florida has three NFL teams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars.) NFL betting generates the most interest of any sport in the US market year in and year out.
The Buccaneers’ landing of six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady likely will generate betting excitement.
NBA betting in Florida
Two NBA teams (Miami Heat, Orlando Magic) call Florida home, accounting for most of the interest in the Sunshine State. The NBA continues to be a popular wager for in-game or in-play betting because of the pace of the action.
MLB betting in Florida
There are two Major League Baseball teams (Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays) that operate in Florida. Both consistently struggle to draw fans to the ballpark, but the state’s function as a Spring Training home for the Grapefruit League shows baseball’s popularity in Florida.
NHL betting in Florida
Two NHL teams (Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning) compete in the state of Florida. The Lightning are former Stanley Cup champions and remain one of the strongest teams in the league.
NCAA betting in Florida
Florida also has three college football powerhouses in the Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes. It would be wise for the state to permit wagers on in-state college teams to capture the betting interest in those teams for the regulated environment.
Where can I bet on sports in Florida?
The tribal compact with the Seminoles does mention retail sportsbooks in the state, but the actual layout and plan of these sportsbooks is still being worked out. The tribe owns and operates six casinos in the state. If and when sports betting in Florida launches, some of the larger Seminole casinos in the state will likely have a sportsbook on-site. Those casinos include:
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Hollywood
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa
- Seminole Casino, Coconut Creek
- Seminole Classic Casino, Hollywood
- Seminole Casino Hotel, Immokalee
- Seminole Casino Brighton, Okeechobee
In addition, sportsbooks are likely to open in the state’s pari-mutuel racing facilities such as Gulfstream Park Racetrack and Tampa Bay Downs Racecourse. These facilities would have to partner with the Seminole Tribe in order to open a sportsbook in the state, according to the new 30-year compact.
Florida and Daily Fantasy Sports
While daily fantasy sports are unregulated in Florida, DraftKings and FanDuel operate in the state. Alongside the sports betting deal reached in 2021, legislators attempted to codify DFS but ran out of time in the session.
A representative of DraftKings and FanDuel spoke against the proposed deal because it would have required them to stop operating until they could acquire a license, among other issues.
Previous efforts to legalize daily fantasy sports in Florida have met staunch opposition from the Seminole Tribe.
A 1991 opinion from then-Attorney General Robert Butterworth makes offering DFS in Florida a dicey situation. Before DFS was even a dream, Butterworth opined that the operation of a fantasy sports league in Florida would violate state law.
For this reason, Yahoo! daily fantasy prohibits people in Florida from playing on its site.
Is horse racing legal in Florida?
In Florida, pari-mutuel wagering is authorized for horse racing, harness horse racing, quarter-horse racing, greyhound racing, jai alai games, and cardroom poker games. Additionally, slot machine gaming at pari-mutuel facilities is authorized in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The most popular thoroughbred racetracks in the state are Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Tampa Bay Downs. Gulfstream Park hosts three important prep races for the Triple Crown races in the Holy Bull Stakes, Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Florida Derby.
The historic Hialeah Park, which opened in 1922, offers quarter-horse racing. Betting on horse racing in Florida is regulated by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
Online horse betting is allowed in Florida through sites such as TVG, TwinSpires and BetAmerica.
Florida used to be the dog racing capital of the country with 11 greyhound racetracks. However, in 2018 voters decided to cease dog racing in the state at the beginning of 2021.
Florida sports betting timeline
As the year began, Florida sports betting remained in limbo with no end in sight. It is unclear when the tribal issues revolving around the state gaming compact with the Seminoles will be resolved. The movement, or lack thereof, on the lawsuit since the appeals were registered likely means that online sports betting in Florida will not return in 2022.
Meanwhile, the ballot initiative orchestrated by DraftKings and FanDuel did not find its way to the November 2022 general election. Both companies admitted defeat at the end of January. However, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins remained confident about a ballot initiative in 2024.
Florida sports betting arrived as the state and the Seminole Tribe agreed to a new compact that includes statewide mobile wagering. The state legislature signed off on the deal between the tribe and governor during a special session in May 2021. The federal government reviewed the compact, as required by law, and allowed it be added to the Federal Register, which does not signal approval.
The deal concludes years of negotiations between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole. Reporting throughout the early part of 2021 indicated that the two sides were making significant progress, although similar reports in the past proved untrue in the long run.
This year, however, the rapid rise of legal sports betting elsewhere in the United States finally appears to have swayed both the state and the tribe to step into the modern world of wagering.
The compact came under fire from several lawsuits after DeSantis signed it, casting a cloud over Florida sports betting. In November, the Hard Rock Sportsbook app launched in the state but was shut down a few weeks later after a federal court determined that the compact between Florida and the Seminoles is vacated. The Tribe is appealing the decision, but as such, the only app that launched in the state is no longer available.
With the tribal gaming payment stopped, legislators entered 2020 making big statements about cutting the Seminoles out of gambling in the state to focus on pari-mutuels and opportunities with private gaming companies.
Sen. Jeff Brandes filed a bill to authorize the Florida Lottery to regulate sports betting without the tribe.
In response, the Seminoles flexed their muscle in the legislature. While Brandes’ bill went nowhere, legislation to forbid the Florida Lottery from offering games based on sporting events passed in the House Gaming Control Subcommittee by a nearly unanimous vote but did not get called for a House vote.
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.
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.
However, the proposal would have allow pari-mutuels to continue offering designated-player card games.
Seminole attorney Marc Dunbar explained to LSR why it doesn’t make financial sense for Florida sports betting to get the Seminoles to give up their dispute of designated player games.
With the agreement between the Seminole and former Gov. Rick Scott to extend the tribal gaming payment to the state coming to an end, renegotiating the gaming compact with the was a focus of the Florida legislature.
Senate President Bill Galvano, who handled the previous compact, tasked Simpson to work with the Seminoles
Simpson worked out a tentative agreement with the tribe. It would have paid the state at least $500 million a year in return for pledging to shut down the designated card games offered at state parimutuels, among other items.
Tribal casinos and pari-mutuels would have been permitted to offer sports betting, with the pari-mutuels paying a cut of the revenues to the Seminoles.
However, Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to sign off on the deal. In response, the Seminole told the governor they would stop making annual payments of about $350 million to the state “until the illegal banked card game issue is resolved.”
The Seminole took control of any changes to gambling in the state away from the legislature by supporting the passage of Amendment 3 in the November election.
Amendment 3 prohibits the legislature from authorizing new casino gambling. Any expansions of gambling not only need to be approved by but also initiated by voters.
This made it impossible for future legislatures to legalize Florida sports betting without working with the Seminole.
Florida sports betting FAQ
Who will oversee sports betting in FL?
The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering handles other gambling regulation in the state, including authority to carry out the state’s oversight responsibilities in accordance with the provisions outlined in the compact with the Seminole.
Will mobile FL sports betting be allowed?
Yes. The compact agreed upon by all parties includes the ability to bet on sports in Florida online. However, since a federal court vacated the compact near the end of 2021, there are no available sports betting apps in the state.
Whether mobile sports betting is legal under tribal law remains undetermined, though, and might need to be addressed by a court.
Who can bet on sports in Florida?
No one at this point in time. However, the compact stated that anyone over the age of 21 is eligible to bet on sports in Florida.
Excluded customers included key personnel from pro and college sports teams, including coaches, players, trainers, and officials. Referees also would be banned.
Who is the Seminole Tribe?
The Seminole Tribe is a Native American tribe indigenous to the state of Florida. The tribe owns the exclusive right to offer all forms of casino-style gaming in the state, including sports betting in Florida.
The tribe owns and operates the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood. It is the largest casino complex in the region.
There are some sports betting websites that say they accept bets from the United States. Are those legal options?
No. There are currently no sportsbook operators that are licensed at the federal level, which means all US sportsbooks are licensed at the state level. Any website that suggests betting from anywhere in the US is allowed is a website that operates offshore. It is not legal for those sites to accept bets from US citizens and those sites offer no protection to those who bet on them.