With Governor Ron DeSantis on the record saying that he doesn’t want a full-blown expansion of sports betting, legislators in the Florida House and Senate are getting creative by negotiating on a bill that would bring online sports betting to the state.
If passed, the bill would bring new revenue to the state via Florida’s tribal casinos and modernize older betting laws to become more in line with the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling.
Although negotiations have started between the two chambers, some republican lawmakers have labeled the discussions as merely informal at this time, but are open to a quick resolution if both sides can come to an agreement and Gov. DeSantis signals that he would approve the bill.
Sports betting would be just one element of the bill as other items such as card games that have been ruled as illegal by a federal judge would get the legislative fix.
Rep. Mike LaRosa, the House President, is one of four lawmakers that are working on the legislation with the hope that they will have the bigger aspects of the bill agreed upon before working on the finer details that would solidify support.
Rep. LaRosa attempted to get a sports betting bill passed in 2018, after the Supreme Court decision but failed when negotiations with the former Gov. Rick Scott’s office fell through.
“We’re going after the big items and, if we can agree to them, we’ll work on laying out the details and the policy,’’ LaRosa said. “Hopefully, we get something accomplished.”
One of the biggest issues with the sports betting bill is finding common ground with the Seminole Tribe, who runs six of the seven casinos in Florida. The Tribe contributed roughly $350 million a year in revenue to the Florida legislature but a disagreement over the card games that the state did not crack down on at racetracks, forced the group to stop making those payments.
The missing revenue has created a significant hole in the operating budget of Florida and the state hopes that dangling the sports betting carrot can get their income back in the form of taxation on the casinos’ winnings.
The Tribe will have to re-enter a new compact agreement that allows revenue sharing with Florida. To make that partnership happen, the state has to bring something new to the table and lawmakers believe that the addition of sports betting will be the exclusive benefit they’re looking for in negotiations.
Other incentives that lawmakers hope will entice the leadership of the Seminole Tribe includes expanding the hours of operation at the casinos, allowing them to host table games such as craps and roulette with the sports betting.
The numerous options that could be included in the bill is one of the big reasons why lawmakers are preaching patience at this point in negotiations.
After the two sides come to a final agreement, then the bill will be pushed to voters, who will have to sign off on the measure to allow it to become a constitutional amendment.
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