Despite the Legislative Session Ending, Florida Continues to Debate Sports Betting Bill

Despite the Legislative Session Ending, Florida Continues to Debate Sports Betting Bill

Florida’s current legislative session just ended, but lawmakers, including Governor Ron DeSantis, continue to work on a compromise that would bring sports betting to the state.

In perhaps the most encouraging sign thus far, Gov. DeSantis has been able to meet with all sides to Florida’s multi-faceted betting industry to gauge their response to a host of possible amendments to current betting laws.

Florida’s betting industry is one of the most complicated in America with owners of card rooms, racetracks, jai alai facilities plus a strong Seminole tribe casino group, all having a heavy lobbying presence in the state.

What Are the Roadblocks to Florida Getting Sports Betting?

Getting in the way to immediate legislation is the passage of Amendment 3 in November of 2018 that gave Florida voters the power to approve any future casino gambling in the state.

Amendment 3 stops the Florida legislation from immediately putting sports betting into casinos and racetracks without voters’ approval.

But does it stop the Seminole tribe from including it in their casinos?

This is a legal question that has lawyers on both sides searching for the answer, with the Seminole tribe claiming they are exempt from Amendment 3.

Another group, No Casinos In Florida, are also protesting the expansion of sports betting in the state.

The group has taken the other side of the argument against the Seminole Tribe position, claiming that voters must be given a chance to decide on sports betting in the state before it becomes legal.

Why Is a Recent Meeting between the Industry’s Stakeholders with Gov. DeSantis So Encouraging?

In perhaps, the most encouraging sign thus far, Gov. DeSantis brought a large group of the casino industry’s stakeholder together to discuss the state’s future in sports betting in a series of meetings.

His first meeting, concerned amending a 31-year old compact agreement that would allow the Seminole tribe-held casinos the ability to take sports bets.

By amending the compact, the Seminoles’ casinos coupled with Florida’s racetracks and jai alai facilities would be eligible to be licensed for sports betting.

In the governor’s next meeting, local sporting arenas plead their case for factoring into a final bill that would allow live in-play sports wagering through a sportsbook or app in their venues.

Gov. DeSantis has cautioned against this by saying that live betting could provide a “big moral hazard” to athletes encouraged to fix games.

Despite the friction, early returns from the meetings with the Governor were positive.

“I have a tremendous respect for him. It’s the first time since I’ve been involved that he’s gotten this whole group together,” said Barbara Havenick, owner of multiple racetracks in Florida.

“There’s never been a time that the industry’s been together and hasn’t wanted to kill itself.”

Although the legislative session ended on May 3rd, all sides involved have agreed to continue to negotiate the complex matter into the summer.

If the governor and lawmakers can come together on an amendment for the Seminole tribe, lawmakers could be called back for a short special session where a vote would be held on the measure.

Although it remains a long shot at this point, Florida could be on the horizon for a big breakthrough, opening the door to sports betting in one of the largest states in America.