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Florida Looks to Have Sports Betting on 2022 Ballot

Expanding Gambling in Florida

The topic of sports gambling is set to meet the Florida ballot in 2022, with supporters hoping to pass legislation that will allow mobile betting statewide.

“I think [Florida voters] overwhelmingly support sports betting,”

said Senator Jeffrey Brandes, a proponent for expansion in Florida’s gambling system.

“I think what’s going to be very interesting is how the tribes counter this.” 

The tribes that Brandes mentions are led by the Seminoles, who seized control of Florida’s betting industry after agreeing to a 30-year compact with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in April. 

The Seminoles’ Control

This deal between the two parties granted access to the tribe’s native lands and extended gambling within the state’s borders but required a revenue split between outside companies and the Seminoles and gave them discretion over their business dealings, in exchange for $2.5 billion paid to the state over five years.

Notably, there is no guarantee that the compact would receive approval from the Department of the Interior, a federal department that is responsible for dealing with natives and their lands and national parks.

“It will be interesting to see if [legislators] support expanding sports betting beyond the compact to the private market,” said Brandes. “Generally, Republicans should be for free and open markets, and we’ll see if that holds true when it comes to sports betting.”

Florida’s state legislature consists of 24 Republicans and 16 Democrats in the state Senate, and 78 Republicans and 42 Democrats in the House of Representatives; if Brandes’ proclamation is valid, the expansion of gambling should be well supported internally.

Details of the Initiative

The ballot initiative that has been proposed would circumvent the Seminoles’ power and grant increased access and flexibility to gambling companies in the Sunshine State if approved next year. Residents would be able to freely vote from the comfort of their homes, and interested parties would not have to conduct business under the monopoly of the Seminoles.

Florida’s advancement towards an expansion of gambling would be a major victory for other states hoping to do the same. California has already approved a 2022 measure that would make retail betting exclusive to tribal casinos, a fate that Floridians are hoping to avoid.

Several high-profile companies have been heavily involved in pushing the measure forward, hoping to infiltrate the market and operate without the restrictions of the Seminoles.

The plan must receive signatures from 891,589 of Florida’s estimated 21.6 million citizens to reach the 2022 ballot, where it will require 60% voter approval to officially be passed. In 2018, Florida approved a measure that restricted state legislatures from enacting any laws designed to expand gambling without voter approval, receiving tremendous support from the Seminoles in the process.

A provision in the proposed initiative says that only experienced sportsbooks that have operated in at least 10 states for at least a calendar year would be allowed to apply: this covers DraftKings, William Hill, and a couple of others. 

After 20 months of legalized betting, other sportsbooks that did not originally qualify would become eligible.

Wrapping Up

If the issue ends up on the ballot, it could lead to the creation of a major gambling market in the country’s third most populous state that thrives on tourism and entertainment. 

This will be one of the biggest situations to monitor in the betting industry, and it is gaining serious momentum.

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