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What Does The Pause In Sports Betting Mean For Florida Residents

Florida residents have been left in limbo when it comes to sports betting thanks to a federal judge who ruled the historic compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe – which runs Hard Rock Casinos – was invalid.

Nearby states such as Georgia and Alabama attempted to pass legislation in 2021 but ultimately failed.  Prospects for both states in 2022 are hopeful.

But Louisiana, less than a three hour drive from the northwestern corner of the state, opened retail sports betting in October 2021. Mobile apps are expected to be operational in the state in early January 2022.

Ronnie Johns, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, told Louisiana Sharp they are on board for an early 2022 launch of online Louisiana sports betting and are excited to see it take off.

“As big as on-property sports betting has been already, online is going to be even bigger,” he said.

More than 30 states have legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court overturned a federal law banning the practice in 2018. Ohio is expected to join the list as soon as Governor Mike DeWine signs legislation passed in early December.

With all this movement across the country, what does this mean for Sunshine State bettors who are anxious to take part in the exploding industry?

Where Sports Betting Stands In Florida

The Seminole Tribe quietly launched its sportsbook in early November.  Three weeks later U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.  On December 4 at 11 am the tribe shut down the app.

Friedrich’s concern centered on the definition of “on Indian lands,” as prescribed in IGRA.  In the compact, all bets were considered placed on tribal property because that’s where the server processing the bets would be located.

Historically, however, the location of the bets has been determined by where the bettor is located. In other words, someone placing a bet in Jacksonville or on Miami Beach would not be considered “on Indian lands.”

Experts predict it will be months before the legal issues surrounding the compact are settled.

At least one suggested stakeholders should go back to the drawing board.

Daniel Wallach, an attorney who specializes in sports gambling, said Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe should work on a new compact addressing Friedrich’s concerns. Proponents could also put forward a statewide referendum aimed at approving sports betting, he said.

The latter is currently underway, with sportsbook operators FanDuel and DraftKings joining forces with the goal of putting a non-tribal related sports betting question on the November 2022 Florida ballot. The Seminoles are strongly opposed to these efforts because it takes away their exclusive rights to gambling operations in the state.

Louisiana Jumps On Sports Betting Wagon

The Bayou State launched sports betting in October and so far it’s been a tremendous success.

“Business has been phenomenal,” Cheryl Duhon with L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge, told WBRZ-2. “It far exceeded what we first expected.”

“We are so excited to see so many new faces in our sportsbook, but also on our table games and slot machines,” Duhon added.

This last part is what worries proponents in Florida: Sunshine State residents driving across state lines to place bets, and by default, pay taxes to other state coffers.  New Jersey has experienced a similar boom on its border with New York as the Empire State struggles to get its sports betting operations off the ground.

Mobile operators in Louisiana have begun to offer pre-launch enticements to bettors to get them on board before the sites go live next month.

Florida residents who don’t want to go to Louisiana can drive less than two hours to the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Mississippi and use BetMGM to place a sports wager. The Magnolia State was one of the first states to legalize sports betting after the 2018 Supreme Court ruling, but has lagged behind other states because of strict requirements the bets take place on casino property.


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