Florida sports betting remains an elusive dream for proponents.
While discussions in most states take place in public legislative hearings, sports betting negotiations in Florida happen nearly entirely behind the scenes.
Any deal for sports betting in Florida must be worked out as part of a larger gambling compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe.
Over the past two legislative sessions, leaders of the legislature and the tribe discussed a deal to restart tribal gaming payments to the state in return for permitting sports betting and other concessions for tribal casinos.
The 2020 session adjourned in March without an agreement on FL sports betting. It’s possible — though unlikely — to be included in a special session later in the year.
The future of Florida sports betting
Sports betting in Florida certainly could happen in the future. It remains illegal to wager on sports in Florida, though, for the time being.
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 needs to be reached to restart the payment. That adds some urgency for the state to act on a deal that includes Florida sports betting.
When will online sports betting launch in Florida?
There’s reason to believe that 2021 could be the year for legalization of sports betting in the Sunshine State. The earliest sports wagers could be taken in Florida is probably 2022.
That theoretically could include the ability to wager online via mobile sports betting apps in Florida.
Sen. Wilton Simpson has a good relationship with the Seminoles and is taking over as Senate President. He worked out a tentative agreement with the tribe in 2019 before Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to sign off on the deal.
However, DeSantis is poised to become more involved in the negotiations. He indicated that he wants to see a comprehensive gambling deal get done.
The 60-day legislative session begins in March and ends early in May. If everything finally comes together in Florida and the governor signs off on a compact, it would still need federal approval.
Recent Florida sports betting news
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 Florida
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 behind California as a tourist destination.
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.
Florida and Daily Fantasy Sports
While daily fantasy sports are unregulated in Florida, DraftKings and FanDuel operate in the state.
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.
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
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
Is sports betting legal in Florida?
No. Right now, there are no legal options for sports betting in Florida. That could change in the future, as state legislators appear interested in legalizing wagering.
Who would oversee sports betting in Florida?
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, likely so. Based on previous discussions, mobile sports wagering is likely to be allowed in Florida. Reports of the proposal discussed in 2020 had it providing exclusive right to mobile wagering to the Seminole.
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 operators 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.