Florida Sports Betting And The Seminole Compact

Nearly a year ago, the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling that opened the door to legal sports betting nationwide. A lot has happened around the country over the past year to make it happen in each state. Current, it's legal in seven states, Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. It's about to be legal in Arkansas and New Mexico. After those nine there’s a crush of other states working through pending legislation that could enable it if passed. Only 14 states don’t currently have pending legislation being considered. 

In Florida, we’re one of the least likely to see it happen in the near future for two significant reasons. One, we have existing laws explicitly outlawing it and two, the existing Seminole compact provides the Seminole tribe with the upper hand in dictating any terms of sports betting in Florida. Had politicians known the Supreme Court would have opened the door to sports gambling when the previous compact was agreed to, they would have probably handled things differently.  

In 2010, a 21-year compact went into effect. It grants broad exclusivity to the Seminole tribe for gaming and gambling across our state. In exchange for the exclusivity, the state gets 12.5% of the revenue generated. This nets the state about $340 million in annual revenue. While not legal at the time, sports gambling would fall under the protections afforded to the tribe. So, this is where the negotiation begins. On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s in favor of enabling sports gambling in Florida, met with leaders from the Seminole tribe to attempt to negotiate an amended compact that allows for sports gambling in Florida. 

While the governor’s office declined to comment on Friday, here’s the framework that’s believed to have been proposed:

  • Florida votes to repeal the ban on sports betting.
  • Seminole's obtain the right for sports betting at their facilities.
  • Sports betting is also enabled at all existing racetracks statewide.
  • Prop bets are allowed at sports venues statewide.
  • Seminoles get a ten-year extension on their current compact on all other protections/exclusivity. 

If it were to move forward, there’s a lot for everyone in this deal. The race tracks that are losing greyhound racing would gain sports betting in addition to the casinos. Prop bets coming to stadiums would doubtless be a huge boon for attendance and revenue at games and the Seminoles would gain ten-years on non-sports betting protections for not having exclusivity on sports betting. But here’s the thing, the tribe would have to agree and the state would have to pass it.

The tribe described the talks as cordial, which suggests there’s a chance they would get on board, but that’s still unclear. But the state session ending in a week is a real challenge. Based on these two things, I suspect this year will be to lay the groundwork and get everyone on board. Next year for votes that might make it happen. If everything were to break just right, it could happen starting in July of 2020. 

Photo by: Aaron Davidson/Getty Images for SOBEWFF®

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