Florida Sports Betting Legalization Remains in Limbo

The Miami Heat missed out on a trip to the NBA Finals after their Game 7 loss at home to the Boston Celtics, but fans wouldn’t have been able to wager on the team even had they made it. For a state that seems to be leading the nation in freedoms related to COVID lockdowns and school closures, Florida still hasn’t opened up sports wagering to the masses, leaving offshore betting sites as the only option for many.

Make no mistake governor Ron DeSantis tried to get sports betting off the ground in Florida signing a Tribal Gaming Compact in April 2021 which was signed into law a month later. Sports betting in the state didn’t even last a month when it went live in November, and it doesn’t look like full legalization may come to fruition until at least 2023 (with some saying 2025) with the state missing out on football season betting – and record setting revenue – for at least another year.

What Happened With the Bill?

When DeSantis signed the compact in April of 2021, he reached an agreement with the Seminole Tribe for exclusive gaming rights in the state. The Seminole Tribe owns the Hard Rock casinos and was willing to pay up to $500 million annually for 30-years for that exclusivity.

On November 1st, 2021 online sports betting went live via Hard Rock Digital. It was short-lived though with a hearing coming in D.C four days later and a ruling coming through on November 22nd that the compact violated the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act). That ruling threw out the state’s agreement with the Seminole Tribe, who suspended operations indefinitely on December 4th.

Appeals on the ruling have been unsuccessful, with the two main concerns being that the Seminole Tribe had a monopoly on sports betting, but more importantly that the IGRA states that all gaming must take place on respective lands. The big problem with that was sports betting being done online as well as at the various Hard Rock sites the Seminole Tribe owned.

Sports Betting Would Be Huge in Florida

It’s not hard to fathom that if sports betting did become legal in Florida, the state has a real chance of being one of – if not the – wagering meccas in the United States.

First off Florida is the second or third most populous state in America with about 22 million people in 2021 and that number is expected to rise as people leave lockdown states for the freedom of Florida. Also the three major surrounding states around Florida – Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina – all have dead sports betting legislation meaning an influx of tourists would be crossing the borders to get their wagers in.

Can you imagine how many people from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina would make the trek across the border to put bets in on their hometown teams during college football season? That doesn’t even include the Gators, Seminoles, or Hurricanes bettors in-state, as well as Dolphins, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Rays, Marlins, Lightning, Panthers, Heat, and Magic fans for pro sports wagering.

Florida is missing out on a great opportunity with legalized sports betting, here’s hoping they get it right soon.


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