Home to some top sports franchises and a lively population from across the USA and beyond, the Sunshine State seems like it would be the perfect place for a sports betting market. However, Florida sports betting has struggled to get off the ground.
Florida Sports Betting
Though both the state government and the Seminole tribe – the owners of casino brand Hard Rock – are open to online sports betting, both parties are struggling to agree on the precise terms of the deal. Several have been introduced and subsequently killed, making for a bit of an unsure market. The Seminole tribe even temporarily launched an app until it was shut down following a lawsuit and a federal investigation.
This state has the potential to be one of the biggest and busiest markets if only the precise terms of the Florida sports betting market could be agreed upon. Hopefully, we should see progress soon, since it does seem like both parties wish to see sports betting become a success here. Though the market might not launch appropriately until 2023 at the earliest, there is plenty of potential here.
Legal Online Florida Sports Betting
Legal Florida sports betting sites did exist, if only for a short while, when the Seminole tribe created an online sportsbook through their Hard Rock brand back in November 2021. Residents of Florida were able to sign up and place bets just as they do in other states that have legalized this form of betting. But, most unusually, this app was also created and launched without much fanfare – something that we don’t often see when online sports betting takes off in a state.
However, a judge ruled that the Hard Rock sportsbook launch was, in fact, illegal. This means that the Hard Rock Sportsbook app had to be shut down a mere three weeks after it was initially launched. Unfortunately, it also meant that there were no legal options left for online Florida sports betting.
How To Pick A Florida Sports Betting Site
When terms for online Florida sports betting are finally agreed upon, they will likely be in favor of the brands owned and operated by the Seminole tribe. This means that we will probably see a relaunch of the Hard Rock sportsbook for sports wagering.
We may also see several big providers in other states open online sportsbooks in Florida, depending on the terms of the sports betting legislation. Other big brands include daily fantasy sports providers FanDuel and DraftKings, who have also successfully launched sports betting apps and sites in other states like New Jersey. We can also expect other major sportsbook providers like Caesars or BetMGM to at least explore the legal sports market here to determine whether or not they can viably operate a brand here.
However, it is most likely that we shall only see sports betting arise through the Seminole tribe for the moment, as that is what their compact agrees. When setting up the legislation for Florida sports betting, Governor Ron DeSantis had to renegotiate the Seminole tribe’s compact with the state. One of the terms agreed was that the Seminole tribe would exclusively operate sports betting at their casinos in exchange for annual fees of at least $500 million paid to the state. This exclusivity agreement is just for retail betting, but it could be extended to cover mobile betting.
If this is the case, it might mean that we see the other brands attempt to approach the Seminoles to create a partnership and a joint Florida sports gambling platform. This has been successfully done in other states but might not come to pass in the Sunshine State. The Seminole tribe has proved that they can create and launch their own sports betting platform. Therefore, it might not make much sense for them to create another one with another brand, even a major sports bet brand like William Hill.
Whatever comes to pass, we can be sure that there will be several terms and conditions that bettors will need to obey if they place legal wagers on Florida sports betting. First, as in other states, bettors will likely need to be aged at least 21 to register for accounts. Since you must be 21 to enter a casino and play the games there, it is understandable that they would make this the same when it comes to sports betting.
The other significant factor that is likely to come into play is geofencing. This technology ensures that those engaging in Florida sports betting are located within state borders. It is used in many states that have legalized sports betting thus far. Since Florida’s neighbors of South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia have not legalized sports betting in any form, lawmakers in the Sunshine State will need to make sure that any betting tourists hopping over the border for their wagers will need to be physically present within the state to do so.
History / Timeline Of Sports Betting in Florida
Though sports betting has never been present in a legal capacity in Florida, there has been a good casino market here for some time. Since the 1930s, the race tracks and jai alai frontons have provided places where Floridians could bet. In addition to this, slots and other casino games boomed in popularity after they were introduced to tribal casinos and racetracks in the 1980s and 2004 respectively.
The introduction of sports betting was held back following the introduction of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992. This prohibited the launch of sports gambling in any state, in the United States where it was not already present. These states were Nevada since it already had a sports betting market, and Delaware, Oregon, and Montana, as these states operated sports lotteries at this time.
With PASPA in place, Florida was prevented from opening its sportsbooks and online betting. However, this did not mean that provisions could be made in the meantime. Over the next few years, gambling was expanded through the tribal casinos in Florida, with the Seminole tribe receiving the right to offer all varieties of gambling in 2010. Other types of gambling also flourished, including expansions to the state lottery, such as the launch of Mega Millions tickets.
A historic change came to pass in 2018 when the Supreme Court deemed PASPA to be unconstitutional. This meant that the law was repealed, and the states themselves were able to take control of sports gambling and decide whether they wished to offer it or not.
In Florida, it sparked the beginning of a long and intensive debate that is still ongoing. Finally, in November of 2018, voters passed Amendment 3 in a referendum. This meant that no more gambling expansions would be able to be passed in Florida without first gaining approval from the Seminole tribe. Ultimately, if they were not included in any plans to launch sports betting, they could feasibly just block these proposals instead.
In 2019, we saw the first of the renegotiated compacts emerging, which, if passed, would allow sports betting at both tribal casinos and racetracks. However, Governor DeSantis did not sign off on this agreement. He did not agree to sign a new tribal compact until May 2021. This new compact would allow the Seminole tribe to offer both retail and online sports betting amongst other games, including the launch of online betting on pari-mutuel games if the servers were located on lands owned by the tribe.
The US Department of the Interior chose not to approve or deny these changes to the compact, which meant that it passed into law. However, the West Flagler Associates group, made up of several commercial casinos and other groups within Florida, launched legal challenges to this new compact. Despite these and other lawsuits, the Seminole tribe launched their online sportsbook.
Operations were brought to a close when a US Federal Judge in Washington DC ruled that the gaming compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This meant that online Florida sports betting had to halt, and will continue to be unavailable for quite some time. Some believe that 2023 might be the earliest we see a relaunch of mobile sports betting here, but others put it at 2024 or even 2025.
The Florida Education Champions’ initiative was one alternative that emerged. Backed by key players like FanDuel and DraftKings, they aimed to authorize Florida sports betting at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities and offer betting via online platforms. If this deal made it into law, it would effectively break the monopoly that the Seminole tribe currently holds in Florida.
However, they failed to gain the 500,000 verified signatures required to turn this into a proposed constitutional amendment for Florida voters to consider during the 2022 election in November. So for now, those who want to bet on sports in Florida will have to wait to see if new and legal amendments to the compact can be negotiated, or whether some other measure needs to arise.
Florida Sports Teams
Many are keen to see the introduction of Florida sports betting because this state has many top sports teams. Floridians love their sport, which is reflected in the skill and caliber of the teams available here. There are teams for all five major franchises in American sports. However, these are complicated by a massive number of minor league teams for the various sports.
Florida has three NFL teams. The Jacksonville Jaguars play from the TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. Though they have never won a championship, they have appeared in several playoffs since their founding in 1993. The Miami Dolphins are Florida’s oldest permanent major-league professional sports team, having played since 1966. They currently play from the Hard Rock Stadium, and collected back-to-back championship wins in 1972 and 1973. Finally, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were founded in 1976 and play from the Raymond James Stadium. They have also won two super bowl championships, with their wins have come in 2002 and 2020.
The Miami Marlins are one of the MLB teams in Florida. They have won the World Series title twice, in 1997 and 2003, and play out of the IoanDepot Park. The other MLB team is the Tampa Bay Rays, playing from Tropicana Field. They have made their way through the World Series on several occasions but are yet to claim a title win.
Baseball is particularly loved in the Sunshine State. Many of the major league teams from across the USA will come to Florida for their spring training. These teams are then informally organized into the Grapefruit League. Many Floridians will follow this training closely, whether they are fans of the Marlins and Rays or a team from out of state.
There are also two NBA teams. The Orlando Magic play from the Amway Center. Though they have not won a title yet, they have been to the playoffs 16 times and made it to the finals twice. Miami Heat is the more successful NBA team, claiming the championship title in 2006, 2012, and 2013. They can be found playing in the FTX Arena.
Though Florida is the only state in the continental USA to have a tropical climate, that does not mean that hockey is not as loved here as it is in other states. The Florida Panthers play from the FLA Live Arena. Tampa Bay Lightning is the more successful team by far. Their first Stanley Cup win came in 2004, with back-to-back wins in 2020 and 2021 following. They have also reached the playoffs multiple times, with a Finals appearance in 2015.
Finally, there are also several active MLS teams in the Sunshine State. Inter Miami CF currently play in the stadium bearing their name, though they intend to move on to the Miami Freedom Park when it is built. Orlando City SC plays from the Exploria Stadium.
Florida is also home to many colleges. Many of these institutions have teams that compete in some of the top divisions in collegiate sports. When Florida sports betting goes live online, it will be interesting to see whether or not they permit collegiate betting. Many states allow collegiate sports betting but not on teams from within their borders. This could be a model that we see Florida adopting rather than a full and open collegiate sports betting market.
Retail Sports Betting in Florida
Though much of the discussion regarding Florida sports wagering has been focused on mobile betting, it is vital to remember that retail betting is likely to form part of the argument. Unfortunately, since the compact to offer sports betting is currently thrown out, this means that the Seminole tribe is unable to offer sports betting of any sort, including through retail sportsbooks.
The same also applies to other commercial brands. For now, there is no way for them to legally set up a sportsbook, be it in a retail location or available online.
Bettors will need to wait until some agreement can be reached before some form of sports betting is available. Until something concrete is in place, retail sports betting in Florida will be off the table.
The Seminole tribe currently owns and operates six casinos across Florida. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, Seminole Casino Brighton, Seminole Classic Casino, and Seminole Casino Immokalee. Through the Hard Rock brand, the Seminole tribe also owns and operates casinos in other states.
If the tribe can renegotiate a new compact with the state, these six casinos are likely candidates for retail sports betting locations. These casinos already offer various games from slots, tables, poker, and more. Many of them are also attached to hotel complexes, offering a wide variety of amenities to those who would stay there.
The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida owns the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming in Miami. This offers over 2000 slots, poker, and more, six restaurants, and a 300-room hotel. Unfortunately, while the Seminole tribe holds the monopoly for sports betting in this state, it is doubtful as to whether or not we will get to see the Miccosukee tribe extend their options to include sports betting.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports are allowed within the Sunshine State. Those who wish to engage in these games will find many options available, offered through top providers like FanDuel and DraftKings.
Though daily fantasy sports do operate and offer games throughout the state, it is essential to note that they are doing so in a legal gray area. There has not been any legislation to criminalize or fully legalize daily fantasy sports here.
Therefore, it is unlikely that if Florida outlaws daily fantasy sports, operators will have to pull out of the state. However, since DraftKings and FanDuel have been two of the names pushing for the legalization of sports betting here, it is more likely that we shall see their work to launch retail and mobile sports betting in Florida alongside their daily fantasy operations.
Offshore Sports Betting
With no legal sports betting available legally in Florida just yet, one of the best options for Floridian bettors might be looking at what offshore betting can offer. First, however, anyone who decides to do so needs to make sure that they are doing so at a safe and adequately regulated site.
Unregulated sites need to be avoided entirely. These sites can appear to be good destinations; they are anything but. They might offer good promotions and decent odds, but these can frequently be a front. These sites are operating illegally and fraudulently. There is a high chance they will just take any money someone chooses to bet here.
There are a few sites that could offer a reasonable alternative. A trustworthy offshore regulator will regulate such a site, based somewhere like Costa Rica or Curaçao. Always check to see if a site is regulated by such a body when betting through offshore sites before handing over your personal information.
However, there is a chance that terms of the compact will be agreed upon at some point in the future. Though 2024 might seem like a long way off, it might not be too long before we see legal Florida sports betting arising. When it does, betting using licensed sites within the state might prove to be the better choice.
Florida Horse Racing & Off-Track Betting
Horse racing has been an interest of Floridians since the 1920s when the first racetracks opened. Though pari-mutuel betting operations had to be shut down when the Seminole compact was pulled, there is every chance that something new might be offered in the future.
The biggest racetrack in Florida is Hialeah Park. Though it opened as a dog racing track, it switched to thoroughbred horse racing in 1925. Quarterhorse racing has also been offered since 2009. The racetrack is home to a casino and dining complex too.
Another famous racetrack in Florida is Tampa Bay Downs. It opened as a thoroughbred racetrack in 1926 and holds several meets throughout the year. Visitors will also be able to check out the commercial casino here, plus a golf course and more.
One important racetrack is the Gulf Stream Park Racing & Casino, located in Hallandale Beach. From December through to October, thoroughbred races regularly run here. In addition, this track is home to major preparation races for three-year-old horses. The Holy Bull Stakes, the Fountain of Youth Stakes, and the Holy Bull Stakes.
The other two racetracks are Florida Quarter Horse Racing and Pompano Park. Both are home to some brilliant races and have additional facilities such as casinos and dining. With so many facilities built up around these casinos, it only makes sense for them to one day also open sportsbooks and more comprehensive betting facilities once they are legally able to do so.
Final Thoughts / Summary
Florida is home to a vast population, even without considering those who come here as tourists or for only part of the year. Within this, there is such a passion for sports that it is unlikely that we will never see Florida online sports betting launch in any capacity.
The big issue here comes from getting the Seminole tribe to get a good compact within the state, allowing other companies to come in and set up their operations. For now, it would appear that what the tribe wants is complete control of the Florida sports betting market. Though their initial compact did give them this, the fact that it was thrown out is a good sign that they might not be able to claim such a prestigious position again.
We might see the other companies and casino operators moving to block and deal that would grant pure exclusivity to the Seminole tribe. Any new compact will have to consider the entire market as it might no longer be feasible to offer sports betting through the brands owned by the Seminole tribe, whether such platforms are through retail units or online. With such an exciting sports scene in Florida and such a diverse population, we should hopefully see the sports betting market emerge here. The delays in legislation have proved to be frustrating for many. Though the market will not be able to relaunch until 2023 at the earliest, it should prove to be a hit when it does take off.