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Florida Takes Another Shot at Sports Betting Legislation

February 11, 2021

Over the past couple of years, the Florida state legislature has made several attempts to pass sports betting and online casino gambling legislation. Each time, legislators were met by the state’s immovable force, that being the Seminole Indian Tribe.

For decades now, the Seminole Tribe has had a stranglehold on casino gambling within the state. That has not stopped Sen. Jeff Brandes (R), who has personally sponsored a number of the aforementioned attempts. He is back again this year with another try in the form of bill SB 392, a bill that would legalize sports betting while also giving regulatory control to the state lottery.

Will this attempt bear fruit? According to Nick Iarossi, founder of Capital City Consulting in Tallahassee in a comment to reporters, “(Senator Jeff) Brandes really wants to get (sports betting) done. But the reality of the situation is, none of this is going to happen in a vacuum.”

At issue is the Seminole Tribe’s counter demand that they get exclusive rights to control sports and online gambling throughout most of the state. If they were to land such a lucrative deal, the state would counter with wanting the tribe to pay a hefty premium. How hefty? Some experts put that number at close to $1.0 billion, a price the Seminole Nation is not likely to approve.

Whether or not that number is realistic is up for debate. If the Seminole Tribe was in control of sports betting across the state, it’s very likely they would only provide limited access, something that might not include mobile sports betting. It makes sense they would take this approach given the fact they would not want to see their other gaming revenues being savaged as gamblers engage in sports betting, which offers a lower net return than casino gambling.

The Genesis of the Standoff

For anyone wondering why this issue is so complicated, it’s necessary to go back three years when Amendment 3 was passed. With the passing of the amendment, lawmakers have been prohibited from passing any new laws pertaining to other forms of casino gaming without the voting consent of the public. State legislators are arguing that sports betting does not qualify as a form of casino gambling.

With both sides dug in over this issue, it doesn’t look like the Seminoles have much incentive to come to the table at this time. With that said, Senator Brandes intends on continuing to move forward until his new bill gets its day in Congress.


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