Mobile sports bettors in Florida could place bets as soon as the end of the month. Perhaps there will be options on where players can place those wagers in the future.
During its 2023 second-quarter earnings call on Friday, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said he’s hopeful that there’s a pathway for the company to offer sports betting in Florida at some point in the future.
Sports betting in Florida is in an odd legal space. A court ruling in June put back into place the terms of a 2021 gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe. It allows for the tribe to offer mobile and brick-and-mortar sports betting. If mobile sports betting starts again, it will be through Hard Rock Bet. The Seminoles briefly took sports bets in late 2021 before a judge’s decision shut down its operation.
Commercial operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel are not approved to operate in the state. They could only do so through a citizen ballot initiative and constitutional amendment approved by 60% of the state’s voters.
“I think (it’s) too early to tell what the path (to compete in the state) is, but I’m optimistic there will be a pathway there because I think people in Florida want great products,” Robins said. “And so, I do think that it will get figured out. But right now, I think it’s really hard to say.”
The potential pathway forward for DraftKings in Florida
Right now, only one option exists for commercial betting operators to legalize mobile sports betting in Florida: a ballot initiative. In the Sunshine State, residents can initiate legislation through a petition process.
The ballot initiative process in Florida allows residents to propose and enact new laws or amend the state Constitution through a direct vote. Proponents must gather a specific number of signatures from registered voters within a specified timeframe to initiate the process. Constitutional amendments require signatures equal to 8% of the total votes cast in the last presidential election statewide.
Once the signatures are collected, state officials review the proposed measure for legality and clarity. If approved, the initiative is placed on the ballot for the next general election. The initiative then requires a 60% majority vote to pass and become law or an amendment.
Sports betting initiatives in 2022 and 2024
In February 2022, Florida Education Champions, a political action committee backed by FanDuel and DraftKings, collected a little over 500,000 of the 900,000 signatures required to put the Florida Sports Betting Initiative on the ballot for November 2022. DraftKings contributed $22.8 million to the PAC to help advance the initiative that started the process in June 2021.
Initiatives can be placed on November ballots every even year. In February 2022, Robins said he was “very confident” the issue would be on the ballot for 2024. As of July this year, no initiative has been proposed. That leaves approximately six months – February 2024 would be the deadline for signatures – for a repeat effort this time around.
“There’s still going to be a few steps to play out and a few things with court rulings and other things,” Robins said Friday. “It’s really, at this point, a little bit murky, and I think we’ll know a lot more in the coming months.”
The state of mobile sportsbooks in Florida
Gambling on sports in Florida hasn’t been legal in Florida except for a few weeks in 2021. After the US Supreme Court did away with a federal ban in 2018, state officials grappled with the path forward on whether residents should be allowed to place bets on sporting events.
In 2021, the Florida Legislature came to terms with the Seminole Tribe with an updated gambling compact that would allow the tribe to offer sports betting with an increase in payments made to the state. The tribe agreed to send $500 million per year in exchange for new items added to the deal, including sports betting and adding craps and roulette as table games that can be offered at casinos.
On Nov. 1, 2021, the Seminoles launched the then-branded Hard Rock Sportsbook and began accepting wagers. On Nov. 22, 2021, a District Court judge vacated the gaming compact as part of a ruling in a lawsuit filed earlier that summer. A couple of weeks after that, the Seminoles took sports betting offline.
In June, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for Florida’s 2021 tribal-state gaming compact, vacating the District Court’s decision. The Circuit Court ruling should allow the Seminole Tribe to restart accepting online bets as early as the end of August.