Floridians Eagerly Await Decision on Online Sports Betting

By  //  February 16, 2023

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As the conclusion of the Super Bowl brings another NFL season to a close, the online gambling industry continues to go from strength to strength in the US with more and more states beginning to see the economic value in opening up sports betting platforms to their citizens.

Massachusetts is the latest state to have recently joined this trend, with a decision taken in August to give the green light for online gambling operators to launch services in the state. It was a move that has left many Floridians wondering if their state will follow suit, and when they can expect an answer from lawmakers.

Florida could be on the cusp of legalizing online gambling but the decision-makers have already had to pause the roll-out once before. Sportsbooks initially launched in the state towards the end of 2021 but had to be halted soon after due to a dispute with the Seminole Tribe which oversees in-person casino play, who claimed mobile sports betting would violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The current state of play is simply that there is no legal online sports betting in Florida – but there remains some hope that a decision is expected within the next month or two when the state’s legislative session resumes. Whether that hope is well-placed is up for debate – more on that later.

Massachusetts the latest to join

Meanwhile, that decision to pass a bill in favor of Massachusetts sports betting last August could soon bear fruit. The state of play here is very different to that of Florida as in-person sports betting is well underway, having opened at the end of January, with online expected to be launched in spring.

No fewer than 15 online sportsbook licenses have been granted by the state’s Gaming Commission – 11 of which have already been issued, whilst the retail sports betting market has already been labeled a success by the Commission.

The tentative launch date of March 10 already has big hitters DraftKings and FanDuel announcing pre-launch registration offers to coincide with the upcoming NCAA tournament, and with online sportsbooks set to be taxed at 20% of revenue, the move is seen as a key marker in boosting the public purse.

The developments in Massachusetts, and other states which have already legalized online sports betting, are a taste of what could be for Florida if their legislation is passed. It must be said that there were over 30 attempts to pass the bill in Massachusetts before it finally went through so there will be some hope for those Floridians who want the same gambling options afforded to other states, even if it is a long time coming.

Florida reaching a watershed

Gambling has been a part of Florida’s history for decades, having been made legal in the state in 1931 and there are many different forms of gambling available to Floridians – from casinos and poker rooms to racetracks. Now the 21st-century method of gambling is predominantly online and the rise in sports betting options across the US is gradually forcing the hand of many states.

As mentioned earlier, there is hope from some quarters that the discussions on legalization which commenced in 2021 can come to a positive outcome soon, but the expectation is that the process will go through various appeals and counters and may not be resolved for some time. A further campaign to have sports betting on the ballot has already failed this year and it could be 2025 before we see a new attempt.

Alternatively, if the Seminole Tribe and state legislatures can renegotiate their previous sports betting agreement there will be a greater chance of happening sooner, which could be the ideal situation for all parties. This ongoing process in the state is somewhat of a watershed moment considering the potential for a lucrative income stream.

It is widely reported that a mature Florida sports betting market could surpass the likes of New York state in revenues with approximately $20 billion in annual wagers and $1.5 billion in yearly revenue forecast. There are only two states with more potential customers than Florida in this market, and neither of them currently allow legal online sports betting so the potential for Florida is clear to see.

Decision makers hoping to agree

Nevertheless, it would appear that the decision on whether or not to legalize online gambling in Florida looks set to rumble on for some time, but one thing is certain – the revenues generated by those states that have legalized the pursuit already will be high on the agenda for discussion when lawmakers revisit this.

The opportunity to gamble on local Florida sports may all come down to whether an agreement can be reached with the Seminole to open up more options for Florida’s eagerly anticipating customers.