Will Florida’s Online Gambling Laws be Changed?

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Like a number of US states, the authorities in Florida tend to adopt drastically different approaches when regulating on and offline gambling within their boundaries.

While Florida is comparatively liberal when it comes to wagering at brick-and-mortar establishments, for example, its laws have historically been stringent and less forgiving when it comes to iGaming.

To this end, an overview of Florida online gambling laws can be  found here, but in this article, we’ll look at whether the state’s iGaming legislation could be set to change in the near future.

New Legislation in Florida – But Online Gambling Provisions are Nowhere to be Seen

 It was announced in May that lawmakers were drawing closer to approving a 30-year gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, with this ‘compact’ seeing the Seminoles pay the state a minimum of $2.5 billion over five years for the privilege of operating sports betting in the state.

The deal also included perks such as the provisions of craps games and roulette tables at tribal casinos, and it was formally passed into law on May 24th.

However, enthusiasts will note that the agreed compact is very different from the initial iteration of the bill discussed at the beginning of 2021.

More specifically, the original compact approved sports betting, daily fantasy sports and online casino gambling, but only the former remained on the final bill that was eventually passed into law.

The key sticking point here was the provision for the state to engage in “good faith negotiations” within three years and authorise tribes to offer all types of gambling verticals through both online and mobile channels.

The Republican House leaders certainly bailed on the online betting provision, undermining the deal and potentially preventing Governor Mike DeSantis from getting the agreement over the line.

This echoed the situation that unfolded in 2010, when a longstanding legal dispute over the provision of card games at pari-mutuel facilities resulted in a federal judge essentially wiping out a 2010 compact.

Perhaps with this in mind, DeSantis moved quickly to remove the provision for online gambling from the latest compact, enabling the bill to pass quickly into law and lay the foundation for the expansion of offline wagering in Florida.

So, What is Included in the Compact?

 Sports betting has been fully approved as part of the compact, while this vertical will be controlled by the Seminole Tribe (who also run the state’s entire gaming industry as a whole).

In terms of revenue sharing, the tribe will distribute nearly 14% of the total yield with the state, while there’s a provision for them to partner with at least one pari-mutuel operator in Florida within three months of the official launch.

If they fail to comply with this, the percentage of revenue payable by the tribe will increase markedly, but this isn’t expected to be too much of a stumbling block.

 The new skins are likely to launch independently, although all betting will be carried out on the Seminole-controlled servers.

Wagering on both professional and collegiate sports events will be authorised, although it’s thought that these areas of the legislation could be subject to change before the compact is fully enacted.

Finally, the bill stipulates that a Florida Gaming Control Commission will be created following the decision to pass SB 8-A into law. This will include five members who are all appointed by DeSantis, and it’s thought that the tribe is more than satisfied with the arrangement.

The Future for iGaming and Fantasy Betting in Florida

 Of course, the decision of De Santis to remove online gambling from the recent compact doesn’t necessarily sound the death knell for the marketplace, as this was largely a pragmatic step aimed at securing some kind of quick expansion of the existing industry.

While there remains some demand and support for the full legalisation of online gambling in the state, however, the rhetoric of Chris Sprowls (the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives) sounds a slightly more pessimistic note.

After the passing of the amended bill, Sprowls revealed his concern that “some language in the compact could be construed to lead to the backdoor expansion of online gaming”.

Sprowls added that “even the mere possibility of this was unacceptable”, suggesting that the decision is unlikely to be reversed (or even revisited) in the near future.

Even daily fantasy betting remains something of a grey area in Florida, as while these games aren’t specifically outlawed, no legislation has been passed to legalise the vertical and this situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.

In the meantime, Florida residents have no issue in accessing or playing daily fantasy sports games online, which provides at least some solace for iGaming enthusiasts in the state.

https://floridanewstimes.com/will-floridas-online-gambling-laws-be-changed/295870/