There is still no real timeline for when sports betting will be legal in Florida. However, Florida tourists will have more options to bet on games soon.
Last Friday, BetMGM announced a partnership with Carnival Cruise Company. The deal will allow guests on select ships to place wagers on the BetMGM software. Betting will be available on Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises, which all are under the larger Carnival umbrella.
Princess Cruises launched a sportsbook of its own last year. While nothing was addressed, it’s assumed that the BetMGM sportsbook will eventually replace Princess Cruises’ Ocean Sportsbook.
Passengers on those select ships will be able to use the ship’s Wi-Fi to access the online sportsbook from their computer or mobile device. Or they can use BetMGM-branded kiosks to place wagers as well. BetMGM’s online casino games will also be available onboard.
Since Carnival’s corporate headquarters is in South Florida, the cruise line technically became one of the first Florida companies to offer sports betting. Hard Rock International, the corporate entity for the Seminole Tribe, briefly launched an online betting platform until a federal judge struck down the Florida gaming compact.
At Florida ports, betting is prohibited until ships are in international waters
According to representatives of both Carnival and BetMGM, passengers won’t be betting while ships are docked at Florida ports. Since Florida sports betting isn’t legal, the two betting options won’t be available until the ship reaches international waters.
Once a vessel is 12 miles away from the shoreline, the boat is officially in international waters.
Aside from Florida, here’s where Carnival has other American ports.
- New York
- South Carolina
Of those locations, online sports betting is only legal in Louisiana, Virginia and New York. At those locations, guests can bet sports while their ship is docked.
Maryland and Washington have retail sportsbooks but have yet to implement online betting. In every other state where Carnival operates, sports betting is still illegal. Therefore, passengers in most states will follow the same protocol as in Florida.
Florida is the most popular state to cruise from
Of all the states Carnival operates in, Florida is the state with the most ports to depart from. The company offers cruises departing from Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Miami.
In California, they offer departures from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Every other state only has one port.
A lot of that has to do with basic geography. The state has a massive coastline that spans two major bodies of water and there are plenty of tropical locations within a short cruising distance. It’s why Florida is the top state in the country for the cruise industry.
For example, The Bahamas is a popular weekend cruise spot since it is only 181 miles from Miami.
According to a 2019 report from the Cruise Lines International Association, the cruise industry added $8.49 billion to Florida’s economy in 2018. The total economic impact was worth 154,646 jobs and $7.69 billion in wages and salaries.
Additionally, 60% of all 2018 cruises left from the Sunshine State. And no port was more popular than Miami, which had 2.77 million embarkations that year.
When the report was released, CLIA President and CEO Kelly Craighead called Florida the “heart of the cruise industry.”
The coronavirus pandemic dealt a major blow to the industry in 2020, but a recovery is already underway. As people become more comfortable living with the risks of the virus, numbers will likely recover to pre-pandemic levels.
Limited number of ships to be compatible with sports betting
According to the press release, BetMGM will be available on “more than 50 ships” in the U.S. But how many of those ships will be docked in Florida?
The short answer: Nobody knows.
“We anticipate that it will take some time to deploy this functionality to all qualifying ships,” said Roger Frizzell, a spokesperson for Carnival. “And our itineraries change, so it’s impossible to say how many [of those ships] will be sailing from Florida ports.”
Frizzell also told PlayFL that there were no immediate plans to expand beyond the stated number, but that could change if they “build or add ships to qualifying fleets.”
Based on inventory, every ship should offer betting
Frizzell couldn’t give an answer to how many Florida ships would have sports betting capabilities. However, some simple math would dictate that every ship will have the feature.
According to their respective websites, Carnival Cruises operates a fleet of 23 ships, Holland America has 11 and Princess Cruises owns 15 vessels. Between the three lines, there are a total of 49 ships.
If it’s true that “more than 50 ships” will have sports betting, then eventually passengers will be able to wager on any Carnival ship they get on. And a good chunk of those ships will be in Florida.
Until the dispute over the gaming compact is resolved, or a ballot initiative is passed, this is as close as Florida will get to legal sports betting.