Florida Sports Betting Bill Introduced

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The long-awaited bill has landed.

State Sen. Travis Hutson (R) formally introduced legislation today to codify the historic deal between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis that aims to bring sports betting to the state.

Senate Bill 2-A would, among other things, place all sports betting servers on tribal property, ensuring the tribe is controlling the process. The state stands to get $2.5 billion out of the deal initially, and perhaps billions more down the road.

Lawmakers return to Tallahassee next week to discuss the compact and if passed, give DeSantis (R) a win that has eluded his predecessors.

Seminole Tribe Has Gone All-In On Their Deal

The tribe has blanketed airwaves in the Sunshine State with this 60-second ad, aimed at garnering support for the compact which stands to bring them billions of dollars.

The ad, called “Honor,” highlights the work the tribe has done over the years, and recently during the COVID-19 pandemic. The multi-million dollar ad buy is an effort to remind Floridians the deal, formally known as the 2021 Gaming Compact, will benefit all.

Under the terms of the deal, the servers for sports betting will be located on tribal property. This was done, in part, to hopefully make the deal not run afoul of either the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or a 2018 statewide referendum that stipulated expanded gambling operations — not affiliated with a tribe — could not be approved by anyone other than state voters.

The tribe also would be allowed to expand gambling operations at up to three sites across the state.

Many Unanswered Questions About Florida Sports Betting Deal

The tribe used to pay the state $350 million annually for the right to run casinos in the state. They stopped paying these funds several years ago when the previous governor expanded gambling operations elsewhere without the tribe’s consent.

Susan MacManus, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern Florida on political science, said she expects the legislature to pass it.  Then it’s for the courts to decide if it’s legal.

“I think it all comes down to the legal challenges. They are going to be telling,” she said.

No Casinos, the group that successfully backed a 2018 referendum has vowed to take the compact to court.

And Daniel Wallach, a sports gambling expert, has repeatedly warned on Twitter and on Florida Sports Radio, that the compact violates IGRA, as well as the 2018 referendum, also known as Amendment 3.

“Amendment 3 simply does not apply to sports betting. Yet, the messaging around this new compact is that funneling sports betting through a tribal-state compact—and thereby stretching the boundaries of federal law—is a legal necessity because of Amendment 3. I’m here to tell you—for the third time—that Amendment 3 has no applicability to sports betting,” Wallach wrote today in an op-ed for Forbes.

Some lawmakers are beginning to express concern as well.

“I don’t know that this is the right compact. I think this was the easiest deal we could have gotten but it is not the best deal,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes, told the Tampa Tribune. “I think this is the Tribe’s dream deal. This is not Florida’s dream deal.”

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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