Outlook for online gambling in Florida
Currently, there are few indications legal online gambling will be coming to Florida soon. In a way, the difficulty Florida is experiencing regarding sports betting’s legalization provides insight into how hard it can be for any type of gambling expansion to happen in the state. As is the case with other large states, Florida struggles with the fact that there are powerful stakeholders that are at odds with one another and are fighting for a larger piece of the proverbial pie. Such a circumstance necessarily dims the prospect of online gambling coming to Florida, at least in the near term.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida is the largest of those aforementioned stakeholders. The tribe has to be involved in any discussions of gambling expansion in Florida in part because of the tribe’s significant annual contributions to the state budget. Tax revenue from the tribe’s casino locations pumps roughly $350 million into Florida’s government every single year. With full awareness of its contributions, the tribe has not been shy about using these payments as a negotiating tactic, either. As a result, any new gambling would have to give the Seminoles a hefty segment of market share.
At the same time, there are other interested parties, too. The numerous pari-mutuel facilities and racinos scattered around Florida have an obvious financial interest in any potential gambling expansion. These facilities include race tracks, card rooms, jai alai frontons, off-track betting and in Broward and Miami-Dade counties offer slots as well. The companies operating these properties won’t stand by and allow the Seminoles to expand gambling without at least attempting to gain a share of the market themselves.
Even though these other companies’ political power is less than the tribe’s, they still have plenty of resources to pursue their interests in court. The pari-mutuels’ lawsuit challenging the new tribal-state compact negotiated in 2021 provides a clear demonstration of this fact. When it appeared the Seminoles would be authorized to offer sports betting, the pari-mutuels took their case to court and won. However, the case is being appealed and will likely take six months to a year to settle.
Of course, there are also lawmakers and other influential entities who significantly shape any new legislation. At one point, the contested compact included a provision to allow online gambling at a future date, but the item was removed over some lawmakers’ objections.
The bottom line is that the bigger the state, the more complex it becomes to pass new gambling laws. No gambling expansion in large states like Florida, Texas or California can proceed without an extraordinarily deft compromise written into the legislation. Therefore, any legal online gambling that may come to the state will necessarily require a lot of bargaining and very likely a lot of time as well.