Online Sportsbooks in Florida – Will They Actually go Live on 15th October?

By  //  September 26, 2021

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The ground-breaking compact between the Florida state legislature and the Seminole tribe in the first half of this year was supposed to see online sports betting begin in the middle of next month.

Now that prospect looks more and more unlikely. Three-sided court battles between powerful corporate interests, pari-mutuel casinos, and the Seminole tribe have now reached federal level. By now, even land-based sports betting in Florida is not certain before the end of this year.

Let’s rewind and see how we got here.

April 2020: The Seminole Tribe signs a ‘compact’ with the state of Florida

The landmark 30-year compact allowed the Seminole tribe to offer online slots, blackjack, poker, and other casino games, as well as sports betting on tournaments like the NFL – as long as the server was located on tribal territory, and the player was located in Florida.

For the sports betting activities, the tribe would have to partner with a local pari-mutuel operator. These would be limited to certain pari-mutuels, however, such as the Daytona Beach Racing & Card Club. Florida’s online gambling fans were starting to look forward to betting on the Super Bowl LVI in 2022.

June: The first complaints from other pari-mutuels

It didn’t take long for some of the pari-mutuels left outside the compact to protest. The Magic City Casino in Miami claims that letting Floridians to place bets outside the Indian casinos breaks the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA), which did not foresee internet gambling. 

July: The big guns from out of state enter the party

It was inevitable that the likes of DraftKings, and FanDuel would want a piece of the action in Florida. But it was a bit surprising that these 2 DFS rivals banded together to make their own challenge to the compact, under the “Florida Education Champion” political action committee. This is now collecting the one million signatures required to place an amendment proposal on the 2022 ballot.

How will all this pan out? While we think the waters have been muddied too much for internet-based action this year, we do see online sports betting become a reality by 2022, or 2023 at the latest. There is just too many up for grabs for the various parties not to come to some agreement. What’s more, the mid-term elections in November 2022 would most likely have referenda attached which would give Florida voters the right to decide on any options.

We hope that somewhere down the line, even online casino action will become legal in the state of Florida. Several high-profile advocates for legal, regulated gambling in the US, including Casinosformoney, and the American Gaming Association point out that the offshore market is worth up to $200 billion annually, and none of that currently flows to state or federal tax coffers.

What’s more, none of these black-market operators promote responsible gambling, and often hide behind opaque bonus conditions to the detriment of gamblers.

The federal government has thrown a bone to states in recent years, letting them set their own legislation on online gambling – it is sad to see so many states making a mess of the opportunity.