Will Florida Regulate iGaming and Sports Betting Once Again?

Last year, Florida was able to briefly launch sports betting locally on November 1, 2021, with Hard Rock as the only sportsbook in the state. It was brief because, on November 22, 2021, the compact to expand gambling in the state was struck down in the federal court.

Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ruled that the gaming compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Because of this, sports betting operations in the state are still halted today.

However, even if this is the case, Florida locals are still placing their bets online on new online casinos US and sportsbooks based outside Florida. Technically, people in the US aren’t prohibited to place bets online even if there are no local betting operations in place. As long as they do so on online casinos and bookies located offshore, they are fine.

Still, there’s a push for local gambling operations in different states including Florida because when left unregulated, it could cause a rise in gambling-related problems. It’s also no secret that they will be missing out on the opportunity to gain millions of tax revenues.

What is Florida’s Next Step?

The federal court ruling in November 2021 is still being appealed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Department of Interior, and the US Department of Justice.

The Seminole Tribe has been a big obstacle in pushing for legal online and sports gambling in the state. The current agreement in place makes Seminole Tribe a monopoly in all gambling activities in the state. And so, if online gambling becomes legal, the Seminole Tribe will get hit and this has been a very big concern to many.

The 2021 gambling legislature includes the need to establish a gaming commission to regulate gambling activities in the state. This means that the Seminole Tribe, which has been running gambling activities in Florida, had to transfer the responsibility to the new gaming commission.

However, there have been questions on why there was suddenly a need for a new gambling commission when the state has had none for decades. One of them is Senator Jeff Brandes, a Pinellas Republican. He has expressed his skepticism about this once on the Senate floor.

Brandes said, “What does the Gaming Commission do now that there’s no compact? Do they have a real job? Is this the best job in the state of Florida, to be on the Gaming Commission?”

This was a question he asked Senator Travis Hutson, a Volusia Republican, who led the 2021 legislature drive for sports betting and other new forms of gambling in the state.

Hutson only answered with, “I think the best job in the state of Florida is to be a Florida senator.”

Brandes then replied, “You have to do more work as a senator than you’re going have to do on the gaming commission… Just to be clear, their job now is to move buildings or to create a new division? And manage backroom card games and cockfights in Miami?”

Hutson explained and said, “They are going to set up that new agency, and then barring [pending court decisions], depending on what happens, we’re back under the old compact, so they have to make sure we’re regulating the old compact.”

However, The Senate still ended up with 37-2 votes for the establishment of the gaming commission. Senator Brandes and Senator Audrey Gibson, Duval County Democrat, are the ones who voted no. For now, we’re only awaiting the decision of The House for online betting to once again be legal in Florida.

What’s to Happen if Florida is Allowed to Bet Again

If betting in Florida gets a green light once again, it could bring around 20,000 direct jobs to the state. It is also projected that the state may gain $1.1 billion in direct added domestic product and over $264 million in potential tax revenue.

Another $85 million might be generated by the indirect or induced economic impacts. Based on the 2021 legislation, the Florida government will impose a 13.75% tax on the gambling handle. The tax revenue will go to the Florida Education Champions’ constitutional amendment. This stipulates that the tax revenues will go towards enhancing the state’s education programs.

When it comes to which bookies are likely to lead the gambling market in the state aside from Hard Rock Sportsbook, Fan Duel, DraftKings, Caesars, PointsBet, and BetMGM sportsbooks are just some of them. However, likely, more bookies will also surface in the coming years.

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