Daily Fantasy Sports in Florida
Floridians who enjoy daily fantasy sports can enter contests at several sites, including major operators like DraftKings and FanDuel. However, the legal environment surrounding the industry is a bit complicated.
Many states have already cashed in on the popularity of daily fantasy sports. Nearly two dozen passed legislation that explicitly legalized the activity. As a result, those states are generating tax revenue from DFS.
However, Florida is not part of this crowd. Legislation to legalize DFS was proposed before, but no bills have progressed far enough to receive serious consideration from lawmakers. Meanwhile, an earlier opinion from a former Florida Attorney General would suggest DFS might not be allowed under current state law.
Consequently, DFS in Florida exists in a legal gray area. Here’s an overview of daily fantasy sports in Florida, including information about its current legal status and where Florida residents can enter DFS contests.
Are daily fantasy sports legal in Florida?
The short answer is no. However, it isn’t illegal either. It exists in a bit of a grey area, but the major operators in the space are operating in the Sunshine State.
There is no law explicitly authorizing DFS in Florida. The state doesn’t carve out any exemptions for DFS in the section of its constitution that defines unlawful gambling. There is no law explicitly prohibiting DFS, either.
The practical consequence of there being no specific DFS legislation in Florida is the state doesn’t care if you play DFS. There have been no noteworthy instances of anyone being arrested for playing daily fantasy sports in Florida. If anything, the government would go after operators before the players, although that hasn’t happened, either.
It’s a bit reminiscent of the online poker boom in the mid-2000s. Federal laws concerning illegal gambling failed to be explicit about what games were prohibited. As a result, a few companies exited the U.S. market, but several remained, and Americans could still play online poker.
The practical consequence of there being no specific DFS legislation in Florida is the state doesn’t care if you play DFS. There have been no noteworthy instances of anyone being arrested for playing daily fantasy sports in Florida.
If anything, the government would go after operators before the players, although that hasn’t happened, either. That’s exactly what happened in 2011 when the federal government seized assets of the three major online poker rooms still serving U.S. players. But two of those three companies were insolvent and players were unable to receive funds for several years.
The difference between the online poker boom and a possible DFS crackdown in Florida is that the major operators in Florida are operating in other states. They are also publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. They are highly unlikely to be insolvent and in that scenario, there’s very little chance of players getting hurt financially.
Around 20 other states have no law for or against DFS. Only a small number of states banned the industry.
Some observers point back to a 1991 opinion from then-Attorney General Robert Butterworth as relevant to the question of the legality of DFS in Florida. In that opinion, Butterworth stated that any type of paid-entry fantasy sports is illegal under Florida law. At the time, Butterworth was offering an opinion on season-long leagues. After all, DFS didn’t even exist at the time. Even so, countless Floridians play DFS without incident, despite Butterworth’s opinion.
In 2015, a federal grand jury convened in Florida to discuss whether DFS sites were breaking the law. Nothing concrete resulted from that discussion, but the situation was enough to convince Yahoo! Sports Daily Fantasy and a couple of other operators to exit the state. But many other DFS sites stayed and continue to serve Floridians.
Amid the discussion of new sports betting legislation in 2021, an amendment to authorize daily fantasy sports was introduced. The amendment sparked controversy, however, for proposing various items such as imposing a huge license fee for operators, charging extra fees to players to enter contests, and raising the minimum age to play DFS from 18 to 21. Many DFS sites spoke out against the amendment, and rather than complicate the sports betting debate the amendment’s sponsor withdrew it.
Lawmakers could take up the issue of DFS again soon. Meanwhile, even if DFS isn’t explicitly legal in the state, those in Florida wishing to enter DFS contests can freely do so.
Daily fantasy sports sites to play in Florida
There are several daily fantasy sports sites available to Florida players. These include:
On each of these sites you can enter contests using a desktop or laptop computer or via the site’s mobile app. Each of them has an app for both iOS (Apple) and Android devices.
DraftKings and FanDuel are easily the most popular DFS sites both in Florida and throughout the US, covering more than 90% of the market. That means on those two sites you’ll find the most DFS contests and the largest ones, although the other sites have many options as well.
The difference between daily fantasy sports and regular sports betting
Daily fantasy sports share a lot of affinities with traditional sports betting, although the differences are significant.
With traditional sports betting, you often bet on a particular team to win a game, either outright or by a certain number of points. However, in DFS the contests never depend directly on which side wins or loses the game. Rather, you select line-ups consisting of players from multiple teams and their collective performance, translated into fantasy points, determines the result.
The “fantasy” in fantasy sports refers to the fact that your team is not a “real” team but a selection of players from different teams you’ve drafted to compete for you. All DFS games require you to select players from at least two teams to compile your (invented) fantasy team. You can never draft a team of players from a single team but must mix players from multiple teams.
If you play a DFS contest and include a couple of Miami Heat players such as Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, it doesn’t matter for the contest if the Heat win or lose their game. All that matters is how Butler and Herro perform, along with how the other players on your roster do. It will probably be good for you if the Heat have a good game, but only your chosen players’ stats directly affect how you do in the contest.
In a way, fantasy sports do somewhat resemble “prop bets” in which you bet on how individual players perform in a game. However, in DFS you’re never just betting on one player, but a team of players.
How to sign up for a DFS site and enter contests in Florida
Signing up for an account at a daily fantasy sports site is easy to do. It costs nothing to create and register an account. Entering a DFS contest is a simple process as well.
Here are the steps you generally have to follow to set up your DFS account.
Choose a DFS site
Before signing up for an account you can always look online to see what games and markets the sites offer, what promotions and bonuses might be available, what banking options there are and learn about other features. Most sites offer similar types of contests, but some have unique game types and other features that might make them stand out for you.
Sign up for an account
Once you’ve chosen a DFS site, click the sign-up button and follow the instructions for creating an account. You will have to provide some personal information such as your full name, your physical address, your email address and your birthdate. Note that in Florida for all DFS sites you must be at least 18 years old to enter the contests.
You’ll likely be asked to create a username and password as well as to agree to the site’s terms and conditions. That’s it!
Deposit funds into your DFS account
Once you create an account you can browse around to see the different contests that are offered. In order to enter one, though, you’ll need to deposit money into your account. (In some cases, however, you might be able to enter freeroll contests without depositing any money.)
Most sites offer a variety of ways to fund your account, including via debit and credit cards, bank transfers, prepaid cards and e-wallets. Find the method that is most convenient for you and make your deposit. In most cases, you’ll be able to withdraw funds the same way.
Enter a DFS contest
Having created an account and deposited funds, you’re ready to enter your first contests. Look around to find one that suits your bankroll and desired game type, choose your line-up, and submit your entry.
Usually you can keep editing your line-up right up until the moment contest registration closes. You can even unregister and have the entry fee returned to your account, if you wish. However once the contest starts your entry and line-up will lock in.
From there you can follow how your team is doing as the fantasy points are automatically calculated as the games proceed. For many this is the most fun part of DFS — getting to track your team’s progress and see where you are on the constantly updated leaderboard.
DFS contests available to play in Florida
There are several different ways to play daily fantasy sports. Contests feature a variety of formats and structures, while the buy-ins can range from freerolls (that cost nothing to play) and $0.25 contests up to those costing hundreds or even thousands to enter. Some only allow one entry per player, while others let players enter as many times as they wish.
Usually daily fantasy sports contests invite players to assemble their line-ups using a “salary cap” model. For instance, you might be given $50,000 to bankroll your team, and you select players each of whom have a certain price tag associated with them. The best players expected to produce the most fantasy points will be the most expensive, while the ones on the end of the bench who may or may not play are the least expensive.
This is where the skill of DFS comes into play. You can’t simply load your team with all superstars, since you won’t have enough salary available to fill out your roster. Usually you’ll have to pick one or two stars, some mid-level players, and perhaps one or two low-priced players to build your team.
Here are some examples of different DFS contest formats you’re likely to encounter on the sites:
Guaranteed prize pools
A DFS contest with a guaranteed prize pool (GPP) is one for which it doesn’t matter how many people register, the prize pool is guaranteed. Usually the top 10% or 20% of finishers divide up the prize pool. The highest finishers win the largest prizes, much like in a poker tournament.
There is another variety of DFS contest called a cash game. Instead of having graduated payouts, these award the same prize to everyone who finishes “in the money.” Examples include:
- 50/50 contests: the top 50% of finishers all win the same amount
- Double-ups: winners earn twice the entry fee
- Head-to-head: Two-player, “winner-take-all” contests
Usually DFS cash games do not have guaranteed prize pools. They also usually have a set number of entries that have to take part in order for the contest to run. For example, if only 80 players sign up for a 100-entry game, the game won’t take place and the players’ entry fees will be returned.
Showdowns are DFS contests that focus on one particular game and not an entire slate of games on a given night. For instance, rather than draft players from all the NBA games on the schedule, you might play a showdown contests featuring only the Miami Heat-Orlando Magic game.
The rules for showdowns still prohibit you from filling your fantasy squad will players from just one team. That means you’d have to select players from both the Heat and the Magic for your roster. Showdowns can be either GPPs or cash games.
Tier contests present another spin on the DFS formula. Rather than use a salary cap, you are presented a number of groups of players (or tiers) and must pick one player from each group (e.g., one from Tier 1, one from Tier 2, and so on). Tier contests can also be either GPPs or cash games.
There are other DFS variants as well, including step contests (like satellites that win you entries into larger contests) and even in-game contests that work a little like live betting.
Keep an eye out as well for free-to-play pools and other fun games that daily fantasy sports sites often offer.
What sports are featured in DFS contests in Florida?
You might be surprised how many different sports are available when it comes to daily fantasy sports contests in Florida. In fact, not only are the most popular sports featured, but so are lesser known sports and even esports.
Here are the games and leagues for which you’ll find DFS contests on the different sites available to Floridians:
- Australian rules football
- Auto racing (NASCAR)
- Baseball (MLB)
- Basketball (NBA, NCAA, Euroleague)
- Esports (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, League of Legends)
- Football (NFL, NCAA, CFL)
- Golf (PGA, LPGA)
- Hockey (NHL)
- Mixed martial arts (UFC)
- Soccer (EPL, MLS)
- Tennis (ATP, WTA)
Does Florida plan to legalize daily fantasy sports?
Florida could decide to legalize daily fantasy sports at some point in the future, although at present there is no legislation on the table to do so.
In May 2021, lawmakers debated a newly negotiated tribal-state compact that would authorize the Seminole Tribe to offer legal sports betting. As noted above, an amendment to legalize DFS was introduced but subsequently withdrawn so as not to complicate the debate.
At the time, Senate President Wilton Simpson spoke of the effort to include DFS in the new compact as having been “derailed,” although he also suggested it could return. “Maybe next year,” said Simpson.
Even so, the 2022 legislative session came and went without any new DFS legislation being discussed. Indeed, a failed effort to get a new sports betting initiative on the 2022 ballot in November explicitly excluded DFS contests from consideration.
Benefits of legal DFS in Florida
Why would Florida want to legalize daily fantasy sports? There are a few reasons why doing so could be beneficial both to the state and to Floridians who enjoy playing DFS contests. These reasons include:
- Clarification of DFS’ legal status — Even though no one is getting arrested for playing DFS in Florida, having the legality of the contests clarified would be welcome to everyone.
- Licensing fees and tax revenue for the state — Legalizing DFS would require operators to pay licensing fees to the state in order to serve Florida players. The state could also collect tax revenue from the games, something it currently does not do.
- More operators — When the legal status of DFS was questioned during the mid-2010s, some DFS sites chose to leave Florida. Legalizing DFS would make it possible for those sites to return.
- Larger contests — Legalizing DFS and creating a state-sanctioned, regulated environment for the games could help bring the industry out in the open in Florida, thereby attracting more players and creating even larger contests and prize pools.
Here at PlayFlorida, we will continue to keep a close watch on any new efforts to legalize daily fantasy sports in Florida.