Sports Betting In Florida a Long Shot

A new year means a new attempt at legalizing sports betting in Florida. Such attempts usually fail unless the Seminole Tribe gives its permission. If not and the legislature approves the necessary laws, the tribe will litigate.

Florida’s recent history of gambling and the legislature boils down to this. Keep the Seminoles happy. The result of such happiness is to not get much accomplished whether expanding casinos beyond the existing sites or sports betting.

So proponents of sports betting hold out very little hope for a legislative breakthrough this session. Still, with a new year, hope springs eternal.

According to Legal Sports Report, Jeff Brandes, a state Senator from the Pinellas area, expects to introduce three bills to legalize sports betting with a licensing fee of $100,000 and a 15 percent tax rate. He did the same introductions last year to no avail.

Florida has a 60 day session, one that can be extended by a three-fifths vote by each house. The laws also allow a special session. Under the state Constitution either the Governor or the President of the Senate must call for a special session in conjunction with the Speaker of the House.

The leading bill, SB 392, would allow residents over 21 to bet on just about anything except high school and youth sports. Regulation and licensing would fall to the Florida Lottery. No data mandate or integrity fee.

If SB 392 becomes law, SB 394 kicks in and establishes the tax rate of 15 percent or whatever deemed proper. The money would go to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, and for administrative costs.

The final piece, SB 396, creates annual licensing fees.

Why three bills? The Florida Constitution requires each bill to pertain to a single topic. Introducing the bills is the easy part.

The state compact with the Seminole Tribe states that new Class III gambling activity—sports betting, for example—would be included and that inclusion means exclusivity. Offer sports betting outside the confines of the Seminole casinos and the compact breaks. Past history dictates that without the tribe’s permission, litigation would follow.

Then there’s the 2018 amendment that says any new gambling requires support of the voters in a referendum, an amendment spearheaded by the Seminoles and Disney.