Among the legal chaos steering the future of sports betting in Florida, June 2 marks the day that the U.S. Court of Appeals granted the Department of Justice’s motion to voluntarily dismiss an appeal to one of the several lawsuits that the state is facing regarding sports betting in the Sunshine State.
Florida Sports Betting History
Sports betting in Florida was formally legalized in May 2021, when Florida’s House of Representatives voted to sign a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to introduce online sports betting to the state. The compact was a 30-year, $500 million per year agreement that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law after passing through a special session of the Florida legislature. On Nov. 1, the contents of the compact became Florida’s reality through the launch of the tribe’s app — Hard Rock Sportsbook.
So, for a few short weeks in November of last year, Floridians were able to place sports betting wagers through Hard Rock. That was until lawsuits arose with concerns that Florida’s online sports books violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act at which point the Seminole Tribe was forced to kill their mobile app.
While there are several active lawsuits, the main one, West Flagler Associates vs. Haaland, which ultimately sought to shut down sports betting operations in the state, saw ample court time ending in West Flagler coming out victorious. They claimed that during the few-week period where sports betting was legal in Florida, it caused their company financial harm.
An appeal to the courts’ decision has been made but is still pending within the U.S. Court of Appeals. This approval or dismissal of the appeal will likely come down to the interpretation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
If the compact is upheld in the courts, the Hard Rock Sportsbook app would return to the Sunshine State and online sports betting would resume as it was in November. If it goes under, the state and the tribe could negotiate a new deal with the concerns of the suing parties in mind however this wouldn’t happen until the 2023 legislative session.
Other Failed Efforts
A group known as the Florida Education Champions also pushed hard for sports betting in the state by way of a ballot initiative. With backings from FanDuel and DraftKings, it seemed possible but it failed quickly. Despite the two commercial operators dishing out over $36 million in a concentrated effort to gather signatures, it wasn’t enough. They fell more than 370,000 signatures short of the 891,589 signature requirement. Because they missed their window, this failed measure has now rolled into the 2024 election cycle — starting over with zero signatures.
Florida Sports Betting Outlook
The legalization of sports betting in Florida would be an extremely lucrative opportunity for the welfare of the state. If not for the mere population size of the state, then for the stacked professional sports teams that reside there. Of the big four sports, there’s the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Rays.