Florida Sports Betting Guide
Popularly known as the Sunshine State, is considered as one of the pioneers of gambling in the United States of America. However, even with the reputation of a pioneer gambling state, it is far from being one of the more progressive states when the topic of sports betting comes up compared New Jersey and Pennsylvania where sports betting is already legal both in physical casinos and online.
Neither retail sports betting nor interactive sports betting is legal, except for horse racing and Jai Alai betting. While lawmakers have been trying to find a framework for passing retail sports betting bills into law, a lot of work is still needed to authorize legal betting on sports in the state. Let’s take a closer look at the past, the present, and whether there’s actually a future for the sports gambling industry in the Sunshine State.
History of Sports Betting in Florida
By 1931, Florida had already authorized horse and greyhound racing across the state. It was the very first form of regulated betting after nearly 10 years of back and forth in the state legislature. The law later approved Jai Alai betting in 1936 but after that, nothing tangible was further tabled in the bid to try and expand the local sports betting law for nearly a century.
Given that other states were already working to allow DFS after Maryland officially set the ball rolling in 2012, Florida wasn’t about to be left behind. In November 2015, House Representatives Gaetz and Workman, introduced a bill HB707 to regulate daily fantasy sports contests. Under this proposal, DFS was then defined as a game of skill and not of chance, as was the case in many other states. Owing to this new definition, fantasy sports was to be exempted from prohibitions under state statutes Chapter 849.
After one month, another bill, SB832 was introduced to regulate Daily Fantasy Sports operations in the state under a different characterization compared to other gambling products. This would see that the DFS is treated as a ‘special’ sport unlike the other sporting events. As a result, DFS wasn’t to be subjected to the current gambling rules, but new ones as described in the bill.
2016 – 2017
Finally, in January 2016, HB707 by the Business and Professions Subcommittee and the Finance and Tax Committee by a majority vote in both cases. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee also passed SB832. After that, both bills were returned to their respective chambers for official voting into law.
Another DFS bill HB149 was introduced, and it echoed the same proposal as HB707 by definition. Senator Bill Galvano also introduced a wide-ranging gambling amendment bill, among them, being, regulation of the DFS through the Fantasy Contest Amusement Act, and formation of an oversight body by the name Office of the Amusements. By March the same year, the bill had been approved by the senate, but when it went for consideration in the legislature two months later, it was dropped.
Thankfully, all was not lost for fantasy sports as two more corresponding bills HB223 and SB374 were pre-filed into the Senate and House by legislators Dana Young and Jason Brodeur respectively. They were filed in a bid to exempt SFS from the standard gambling definition. Like HB149 and HB707, these two bills also classified fantasy sports as a game of skill and thus considered it exempt from oversight by the Business and Professional Regulation. Another bill, SB840, was also tabled by Senator Travis Hutson to legalize daily fantasy sports, among other items.
2018 to Date
Unfortunately, however much legislators pushed for the legalization of Daily Fantasy Sports, the bills ended up stalling because it was tied up with sports betting as well and tribal-state compacts with the Seminal Tribe. Up until February 2020, no progress has been made due to exclusivity rights of offering gambling services by the tribe, and lawmakers wouldn’t want to breach these compacts. The Seminal tribe isn’t on board with the expansion of gambling laws for the reason that their gambling business would be affected.
Which Forms of Sports Betting are Legal in Florida?
Currently, the only form of sports betting allowed is on horse races and Jai Alai games. As at now, there are 8 active race-tracks in Florida with 26 pari-mutuel betting locations that players can use to bet on the runners. Betting on greyhounds was banned in December 2017 in a constitutional amendment, and it is expected that the activity will be phased out by 2021. No other form of sports betting is allowed in the state.
What about Interactive Sports Betting?
There is no form of interactive sports betting that is allowed within the state of Florida, including Daily Fantasy Sports. All the attempts to legalize DFS have failed since 2015 have failed because of the tribal casinos that are battling the legalization of the DFS, claiming that it violates the rights to exclusivity in the Florida gaming market.
Horse Race Betting
It is actually legal to place bets on horse races in Florida as long as you do it at the tracks or at designated pari-mutuel betting facilities. 8 active race tracks within the state offer big races annually. In case you were wondering, some of the best racecourses in Florida include Tampa Bay Downs in Tampa and Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach.
Summary of Sports Betting in Florida
|Sports Betting||Not allowed within the state|
|Daily Fantasy Sports Betting||Not allowed|
|Authorized Forms of Betting on Sports||Pari-mutuel wagering, Jai Alai betting|
|Legal Gambling Age||18 for pari-mutuel betting|
|Regulatory Bodies||Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Department of Agriculture, Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.|
|Key Legislation||Florida Statutes|
|Taxation||35% on gross revenue from gambling products|
What Does the Future hold for Sports Betting in Florida?
Right now, given that the Seminal tribe is adamant, there is a stalemate for the expansion of gaming laws in Florida. The lawmakers can’t and won’t go against tribal-state compacts that gave the Indian tribe exclusivity rights. Until new tribal state-compacts are formed, that is as far as Florida will get, unless the Seminal tribe comes on board.