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Florida Gaming Compact: Three Legal Issues to Resolve Before Sports Betting Becomes Reality

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Sports bettors in Florida become hopeful when a new gaming compact was signed between the Seminole Indian Tribe and the state of Florida on Friday.

Following this announcement, a special session was set that will commence May 17 in order to discuss the compact and the gaming bills that have been on deck during this legislative session. Before the compact can become law, it needs to be ratified by the legislature and also approved in DC. What’s more, the compact needs to comport with state law.

Several legal issues arising from the compact are currently unresolved, however. As explained by attorney Tammy Malvin:

First, the compact grants sports betting operations beyond tribal land by stating that online and mobile bets are considered taken where the servers are located.

Second, existing Florida law does not authorize sports betting, so the legislature will have to enact a new statutory scheme in order to allow for sports betting and other elements of the compact to be legal under Florida law. Thus, the special session will involve more than just the arrangement between the State and the Tribe; it will necessarily include further state lawmaking to read it all in harmony in order to implement sports betting throughout the state as set forth in the compact.

Third, the compact includes authorizations and agreements unrelated to sports betting. It also provides, for example, an agreement relating to designated player games (which have been the subject of lawsuits and at the center of revenue sharing disputes), historical horseracing machines, and the potential for full online gaming. And this is all being discussed in a state in which a constitutional amendment funded in large part by the Tribe was recently passed that limits the ability of the legislature to expand gaming in Florida.

It is also noteworthy that the existing commercial parimutuel operators, which also operate cardrooms and (in South Florida) slot machines, while written into the plan, are also restricted by it and haven’t had the opportunity to weigh in yet.

So we will see in May what will happen with the bills that have been pending during the legislative session relating to such commercial gaming that have now been put on hold for the special session as well as the various provisions of the compact.

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