The thought of legal sports betting in Florida was not present to begin 2021, but now it appears that a target launch date has already been set. Lawmakers in the state have made it clear that the industry cannot launch prior to October 15, but that still leaves a chance to be up and running in 2021.
The Seminole Tribe in Florida controls the gaming industry, and it was unwilling to allow sports betting to be offered in the state. This all changed earlier this year as Governor Ron DeSantis was able to establish a meeting with Seminole Tribe leaders.
These two sides agreed to a new gaming compact on April 23, but now that compact needs to be approved by the state legislature first. The federal government will also have to sign off on this compact, but there are a number of steps still needed before it gets to that point.
Florida lawmakers are currently in a special session to discuss the details of the new gaming compact, and the Senate appropriations committee approved the compact by an 18-1 vote on Monday. Approving the compact is just one step to legalizing the industry, as there are other companion bills that need to be approved.
The Florida Gaming Control Commission would also be created if these companion bills were approved. This group would oversee and regulate sports betting, but the Seminole Tribe would still have plenty of control.
Florida has a population of nearly 21.5 million people, and it would become the most populous state with legal sports betting options. The Sunshine State could emerge as a market leader, but there will be limited opportunities available for sportsbooks.
The gaming compact includes language for both online and retail sports betting to become legal, but only on property owned by the Seminole Tribe. Online sportsbooks could work with the Seminole Tribe to obtain a license, but other casino properties in the state will be kept out of the industry.
The special session is expected to end on Friday, and then a final vote will be held to approve the compact and an
Online Casino Gaming Removed
While sports betting looks to be a done deal in the state of Florida, online casino gaming has been removed from the gaming compact. This decision was announced on Monday night by House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and it has been agreed to by DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe.
Sprowls issued a statement on the removal of online casino gambling and pointed to the language in the current compact not being definitive enough. The statement read, “In my discussions with our members, I realized many shared the same concern as I — that some language in the compact could be construed to lead to the backdoor expansion of online gaming.”
Another piece of this new bill would prohibit any current casino owners from transferring their license to another property. The Doral Club and Fontainebleau Resort had already discussed moving to a new location, which will not be allowed if this bill is passed as it is written.