Florida Legalizes Sports Betting, Ratifies Historic Gaming Compact With Seminole Tribe

May 20, 2021

By a Biometrica staffer

On Wednesday, 24 hours after the Florida Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve a potentially precedent-setting gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, the ayes in the Florida House also held sway in a bipartisan vote, sending the measure negotiated by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Tribe back to him for signature. Federal regulators at the US Department of the Interior (DOI), will now have 45 days to approve the compact, which reports state formalizes a historic expansion of gaming in the State and represents an equally significant agreement for the Tribe in Florida.

The final vote tally in the Senate was 97–17. The Seminole Indian Tribe has been the driving force behind gaming in Florida. The compact was agreed upon by the tribe and governor DeSantis in April. If the DOI takes no action, the compact will be considered approved.

It is believed that sports betting will not be able to go live in Florida until mid-October at the very least. But if approved, it would make Florida the largest state to allow sports gambling, a position currently held by New York.

Florida is the latest state to make moves towards legalizing sports betting, after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which deemed it illegal, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018. This allows individual states to decide for themselves whether to legalize it or not. Since then, at least 22 states have done so in some form or the other (as of April 2021). Total sports betting revenue in the U.S. crossed $900 million in 2019, according to some estimates.

In April, Arizona authorized a substantial, statewide expansion of legal gambling, including sports betting, when Governor Doug Ducey signed a tribal gaming compact. It legalizes betting on professional and college competitions at tribal casinos and sites owned by major professional sports teams, and may also lead to fantasy sports gambling operations.

According to Ducey, the compact was five years in the making. The bill passed both state chambers with bipartisan support, with a final tally of 48–12 in the House and 23–6 in the Senate.

The provisions in the bill are wide-ranging. It allows for private licenses to be granted to Arizona tribes and professional sports organizations, and also allows tribal casinos to expand their operations by adding more games, opening as many as four new casinos in the Phoenix area, and expanding the number of slot machines in use.

On Tuesday, May 18, Governor Larry Hogan legalized sports betting in Maryland in a marathon session during which he signed more than 200 bills into law. The law will go into effect June 1. It includes provisions for online betting and sports gambling in the state’s six casinos as well as in the M&T Bank Stadium, Camden Yards and Fed-Ex Field. In November 2020, more than two-thirds of voters indicated that they favored legalizing sports betting. The move is expected to bring it as much as $19 million, which officials say will be allocated to education spending.

Earlier in May, a bill to decide the regulations for sports wagering in the parishes where it is legal advanced in the Louisiana state senate. Since voters in 55 of 65 parishes voted in approval of legalizing sports betting last fall, legislation to do just that has been advancing at a fast clip as proponents say that there is great appetite for this measure. The bill will now head to the full senate for a debate and vote.

Despite Dallas being a particularly attractive candidate for casinos, efforts to legalize casino gambling and sports betting in Texas have likely been quashed for the year. The state constitution bans most forms of gambling. Advocates, however, believe that even if it doesn’t happen this legislative session, it is only a matter of time before it does.

Advocates in Ohio continue to battle for sports betting to be legalized, having set a deadline for themselves of June 30 to get it done. Currently only lawmakers in Idaho and Wisconsin have not made any public moves towards legalizing sports gambling in their states. Meanwhile, Utah is viewed as being unlikely to ever make the move, given the state’s long history of anti-gambling sentiment, which is also built into its constitution.