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A longtime proponent of bringing sports betting to Florida, state Senator Jeff Brandes is putting his money where his mouth is by introducing SB 968, a proposal that would bring legalized wagering to the state in 2020.
For Florida residents over the age of 21, state Sen. Brandes’ proposal outlines guidelines for betting in the state, including a provision that would see the state’s Department of Lottery oversee the regulatory side of the law.
“Sports betting is yet another area where we can enhance individual freedom,” Brandes said. “In the absence of a well-regulated structure, we’ve seen a complex underground industry developed in Florida, potentially breeding habits of addiction, while robbing our government of revenue that should be collected and remitted for education.”
“This legislation creates a legal framework in which Floridians can choose how to spend their time and money, without the worry of being criminalized.”
For betting operators looking to obtain their license, Brandes’ bill would ask that all potential operators first apply through the Department of Lottery for approval. Once the operator is given the green light, then they can offer betting via in-person or through a kiosk to customers.
The bill also outlines the responsibilities of operators including a prompt notification to regulators in the instance of detected fraud or potential malfeasance by one or more employees. Operators will also need to notify state officials if they see irregular betting activities or patterns that might threaten the integrity of the sporting event in question.
Brandes has set the tax rate for his proposal at 15% of revenue for operators and a licensing fee would be $100,000.
The bill from the state Senator comes in response to the lack of progress between lawmakers and the Seminole Tribe, who own casinos in the state. By sidestepping the Seminoles, a powerful political group in Florida, the legislation could be setting themselves up for a major court fight.
In addition to the Seminole issue, legislatures will also have to deal with an amendment passed last November. Voters passed an amendment that allows them to be the sole approval body of any potential sports betting legislation.
The amendment reads: “This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution…”
State officials could argue in court that “casino gambling” is not technically “sports betting,” but it is another legal quagmire that could cause years of court proceedings.
Betting experts are quick to point out that passing sports betting in the state could be more difficult than recent failed attempts by lawmakers to adopt legislation to approve daily fantasy sports in Florida.
In his bill, Sen. Brandes wrote that legislation is needed to defuse a betting black market that funnels roughly $150 billion annually in illegal bets in the United States. Brandes hopes tax revenue from sports betting could create more money for education at both the secondary and collegiate level.
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