Florida Sports Betting Likely Dead Until 2024, Legal Expert Predicts

If Floridians are lucky they may be able to place a sports bet on the 2024 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. 

But likely not before. 

That’s the take from Daniel Wallach, an attorney who specializes in gambling law.

“Absent a reversal by the [courts], there will be no legal online sports betting in Florida until 2024 or 2025 at the earliest,” Wallach told Gaming Today. “The only possible wild-card would be if the Florida Legislature tries to emulate the approach taken in Arizona, Connecticut, and Michigan by authorizing online sports betting outside of the compact. But any such attempts would likely lead to more litigation over a possible violation of the Florida Constitution.”

That’s bad news for the state, which had hoped to reap billions — yes billions with a b — from the Seminole Tribe in exchange for exclusive rights to sports betting.  The two sides signed a contract last spring but it has been tied up in legal crosshairs since the fall.  There is no end in sight.

The case, West Flagler Associates et al v. Deb Haaland et al, now sits before a U.S District Court for the District of Columbia panel. No hearing date has been set. Neither side has asked for expedited consideration.

“At the current non-expedited pace that the appeal is currently on, there will likely not be any decision by the DC Circuit until late 2022 or early 2023,” Wallach said.

And that won’t be the end of it, he added. 

“The litigation path could take 2-3 years because whoever loses could take it all the way to the Supreme Court,” he said. 

Sports Betting Is Not A Priority 

But Floridians themselves are unlikely to notice too much.  For them, there are other more pressing matters – the state’s congressional redistricting is currently before the legislature, there are statewide elections this fall, among others.

“[Sports betting] is not particularly a hot one in Florida at the moment,” Susan MacManus, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern Florida on political science, wrote in an email to Gaming Today. “[There are] too many competing issues.”

Florida law stipulates that any gambling outside of tribal lands must be first approved by the voters.  The compact hoped to address this by arguing the server processing the sports bets — whether they were placed in Miami or Jacksonville — would be housed on tribal property.  This is also a key component of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which requires all Native gambling activities to take place “on Indian lands.”

In her decision against the compact, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich called the idea of the server placement on tribal lands as sufficient to satisfy IGRA “fiction.”

Supporters of a November election referendum on sports betting in the state failed to gather enough signatures to put the issue before voters.  Had it succeeded sports betting would have been legal outside of tribal lands.

The legislature could pass a new compact tomorrow and address Friedrich’s concerns.

But Wallach, who has closely followed the Florida compact for more than a year, said he doesn’t expect any movement there either. He said he doesn’t see them going back to the drawing board anytime soon. 

Also read: It’s Time For North Carolina Mobile Sports Betting, Gov. Cooper Says

About the Author
Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with a focus on legislation and political content. Mary 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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