Odds Are Increasing That Florida Sports Betting Is On Its Way

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It’s happened before and many remain skeptical, but several sources are reporting this morning that a deal may have finally been reached between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and the Seminole Tribe of Florida which would bring sports betting — and a whole lot more — to the Sunshine State.

Politico broke the news this morning, saying the legislature would likely have a special session later in the year to address the issue as all the details get ironed out. The regular 2021 Florida Legislature session ends on April 30.

The key points, as noted by gaming and legal analyst Daniel Wallach on Twitter, after the news broke include:

  • The tribe would run all sports betting;
  • There would be a 60-40 revenue split between the tribe and pari-mutuels when betting occurs at pari-mutual facilities;
  • A new tribal casino in Hollywood, Florida;
  • Only one additional skin for sports betting.

A Long Time Coming

DeSantis and the tribes have been trying to iron out a deal for months.  The governor wants the tribe to resume paying the state an estimated $350 million annually. The tribe stopped making those payments a few years ago when the previous governor expanded gambling in the state, which the tribe opposed. 

Under this new deal, it’s estimated the state could reap upwards of $500 million in revenue.

The tribe runs six casinos in the state and nothing gambling-related happens without its approval.

The Miami Herald reports should the deal come to fruition, the tribe is the biggest winner.

It did, however, reportedly agree to let existing racinos and race tracks offer table games, a major stumbling block in the past. 

Many Unknowns For Florida Sports Betting

The deal has not been formally announced. That is not expected for at least a few days as the details are ironed out. 

Since the legislative session ends next week, a special session will likely be needed to address the issue. This has been the theory for a while, but Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) is reportedly pushing to get things finalized in the next eight days.

It remains unclear, though, what effect — if any — a 2018 statewide referendum on gambling would have on the deal. More than 70% of voters approved the measure which stipulated only they could approve new casinos and not the legislature

And because the deal involves tribal lands, the U.S. Department of Interior has a say. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico, and the first Native American to serve in a cabinet role.

Wallach, the legal expert, thinks this might be a hurdle too high. 

“Under current guidelines, the federal government (Department of the Interior) would never approve this proposed tribal gaming compact. Since sports betting is a form of Class III gaming, the feds would have to sign off on the compact. So barring a change in policy, it’s a no-go.” he posted to Twitter this afternoon.

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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