Feds Approve Florida Sports Betting Compact, Legal Challenges Remain

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The Seminole Tribe of Florida is 2-2 in its quest to launch sports betting in the Sunshine State.

Now everyone wants to know if the tribe can make it to 3-3, or better.

The latest win came today with federal “deemed” approval —  or approval by virtue of running out the federal regulatory clock — of an amended gaming compact between the tribe and the state that was inked about three months ago. The agreement stands to give the tribe 30-year control over online sports betting statewide through betting servers on tribal land in exchange for $2.5 billion paid to the state.

All the tribe needs to do now is navigate a few lawsuits — and a proposed voter initiative — that could possibly derail its goals. 

If it succeeds, the tribe could build its assets through sports betting through at least 2050 in a yet untapped U.S. market. And it already has some idea of what the future could look like.

The Future Of Florida Sports Betting Under The Seminole Tribe

Jim Allen is the CEO of Seminole Gaming and chairman of Hard Rock International. He is also part of the triad that sealed the Florida-tribal sports betting deal between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Seminole tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., and state lawmakers in spring 2021. 

Allen told Florida Politics in June that the tribe must address its legal challenges before moving forward, including one lawsuit already filed that claims the compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) — the federal law governing gaming on tribal lands. The lawsuit also calls into question whether or not the compact violates a 2018 state constitutional amendment requiring voter approval of any form of Florida expanded gaming. 

Some sports betting commentators are calling the lawsuit  “a slam dunk case,” leaving no doubt that they think the compact runs afoul of federal law since it involves gaming off tribal land. But Allen is waiting for the legal process to play out. 

“What happens through this legal process that most likely will commence sometime in the next 60 days to six months … will drive a decision on strategy that certainly will affect the online sports betting market. And then, obviously, the expansion of the land-based (casino) business,” he told Florida Politics.

And, while the future remains somewhat uncertain, Allen was clear on one thing: sports betting promises multi-billion-dollar growth for the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida once online sports betting does go live.

“(All parties said) let’s look at a situation (where) there can be a minimum ($400 million) or $500 million a year solution,” he said. 

The Initiative Hurdle To Legal Betting In Florida

Sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel know the growth potential of a Florida sports betting market, too. And they aren’t sitting idly by waiting for the Seminole Tribe to be the winner-take-all.

The companies have each donated $10 million to an Initiative campaign that would put Florida sports betting before the voters for approval in Nov. 2022. Approval of the proposal would amend the Florida constitution to allow sportsbooks established in at least 10 states to offer sports betting in Florida at professional sports venues, pari-mutuel facilities, and online throughout Florida. The Seminole Tribe would be authorized to offer online sports betting. 

Next would be the creation of a regulatory and taxation framework by the Florida State Legislature, with all online sports betting tax revenue directed toward public education. 

The campaign needs around 900,000 valid signatures from Florida residents to qualify for the 2022 ballot, with a Feb. 1, 2022 deadline for signature verification by election officials. 

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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