DeSantis Signals Potential Movement In Florida Sports Betting

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While Gator fans continue to lick their wounds from a stunning upset to Oral Roberts over the weekend in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, the Sunshine State could make significant strides this week in allowing online sports betting in the years to come.

“We will probably know one way or the other in the next week or so whether we have a path to agreement,” Governor Ron DeSantis (R) told local reporters on Thursday after meeting with a slew of stakeholders on the issue. 

DeSantis, various Republican state leaders, and officials from the Seminole Tribes of Florida have been working recently to try to hammer out an agreement before the legislative session in Tallahassee ends on April 30.

The tribes own and operate six casinos in the state. Since 2019, they have refused to pay the state an estimated $700 million in taxes because they are angry alternative gaming options have become available at horse racing tracks and other locations in the state.

Many Moving Parts

Republicans control both the House and Senate in Florida, as well as the governor’s mansion.

The conversations between DeSantis and the tribal officials, as well as other interested parties, have been behind the scenes until last week. But the battle between the sides is long-standing

The tribes are angry that then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) allowed gambling operations to expand to certain race tracks and other facilities several years ago. That is why they have stopped sending an estimated $350 million annually to the state in a previously-agreed-to revenue sharing plan that gave the tribes almost exclusive rights to gambling operations in the state. 

Now private hotel owners want in on the gambling action so they can market their facilities as all-in-one locations.   

The Trump Factor

The Washington Post reported last week the Trump Organization is looking to transform its Doral property in Miami into a casino. Former President Donald Trump remains popular in Florida and has retired to his property at Mar-a-Lago. 

In a statement to the paper, Eric Trump — son of the former president — who now runs the company, said from a “gaming perspective” bringing gambling to the site is a no-brainer.

“Many people consider Trump Doral to be unmatched from a gaming perspective — at 700 acres, properties just don’t exist of that size and quality in South Florida, let alone in the heart of Miami,” the younger Trump wrote in an email to the Post.

Trump declined to tell the paper, however, if the company was pushing for specific legislation that could permit it to offer legal sports betting.

Where Things Stand

Even if all the stars align and an agreement is reached between DeSantis and the tribes before next month, gambling in Florida still has a high mountain to climb. 

The Walt Disney Company, which holds a lot of sway in the state, is opposed to increased gambling options.

Furthermore, voters in the state in 2018 backed a measure that says gambling cannot be expanded beyond tribal properties without approval from voters in a statewide referendum.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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