Live Updates: Will Seminole Tribe Compact Bring Legal Sports Betting To Florida?

Written By Grant Lucas on June 29, 2021 - Last Updated on July 28, 2021
Florida Sports Betting Updates

More than ever before, legal sports betting in Florida has become a realistic possibility.

Within just a few weeks in spring 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new compact agreement with the Seminole Tribe, a deal that was then ratified by lawmakers during a special legislative session and sent along to the US Department of Interior for approval.

The compact would allow for retail sportsbooks to accept bets on tribal land. It also authorizes the Seminole Tribe to partner with pari-mutuels, which would use the tribe’s platform under their own branding to roll out mobile betting apps in Florida. Among other details, daily fantasy sports would be officially legalized, and the Seminoles can expand their casino game offerings to include craps and roulette.

The federal government has 45 days upon receiving the compact to approve. But the agreement could face legal challenges after that, as some have argued the compact violates Amendment 3 passed by Florida voters in 2018 as well as the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

That said, if regulated wagering does launch in the Sunshine State, it would become the largest US jurisdiction to feature legalized sports betting.

Stay here for all the latest news and developments as they unfold.

Florida sports betting updates

July 28, 2021

Earlier this month, Reps. Lou Correa (California) and John Katko (New York) introduced a bipartisan bill to the House of Representatives. As written, the bill would “remove Federal barriers regarding the offering of mobile wagers on Indian lands when the applicable State and Indian Tribe have reached an agreement, and for other purposes.”

In essence, the legislation would clarify the legality of mobile wagering as outlined under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Known as IGRA, the act prevents players outside tribal lands from taking advantage of tribal offerings. By taking away those federal barriers, tribes that have gaming compacts with their respective states would be able to accept players statewide. Why?

The proposed bill would clarify that the location of online wagers occurs at the location of servers (unless states and tribes agree otherwise) rather than where customers are located.

This proposal certainly opens the eyes of folks in Florida. After all, the Seminole Tribe compact could come under legal scrutiny regarding the tribe’s intent to offer statewide mobile betting. The Seminoles have leaned on the argument that online gambling takes place at the location of servers, which reside on tribal land.

July 14, 2021

Not long after DraftKings and FanDuel contributed $20 million to an initiative to expand mobile sports betting in Florida, another political action committee also received a sizable contribution.

Records from the Florida Division of Elections show that Las Vegas Sands Corp. sent over $17 million to the Jacksonville-based PAC Florida Voters in Charge.

According to paperwork filed with the FDOE, the PAC aims to “support or oppose initiatives on the Florida General Election ballot” as well as “statewide constitutional amendment(s).”

Florida Voters in Charge has not submitted its own initiative to expand sports betting in the state, nor did it indicate that the group was going to propose any initiative.

However, the PAC has reportedly drafted two constitutional amendments that would allow for casino gambling in northern Florida.

A spokesperson for the committee said that Florida Voters in Charge “is exploring options that do not violate the recently passed compact/revenue sharing agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.”

July 12, 2021

The initiative to expand mobile sports betting in Florida received quite a kickstart from its backers.

As Matthew Kredell detailed for PlayFL, DraftKings and FanDuel combined to contribute $20 million to a ballot initiative proposed by the Florida Education Champions. A spokesperson indicated that more funding will come, and not just from operators.

The initiative seeks to allow professional sports venues, pari-mutuel facilities and other sports betting operators to offer mobile betting in the Sunshine State.

The campaign will continue looking to collect enough signatures to get the initiative on the 2022 ballot. Those signatures must be from residents living in 14 of the 27 congressional districts in the state.

As Kredell noted, once the initiative reaches 222,906 verified signatures, the Florida Supreme Court will review the language of the proposal. After that, the initiative must gain at least 891,603 verified signatures to reach the ballot.

July 7, 2021

Mark West Flagler Associates as the first party to file a lawsuit in Florida challenging the legality of the compact between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe.

The owners of Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room filed a lawsuit in Federal Northern District of Florida – Tallahassee Division court. West Flagler aims to prevent parts of the compact from going into effect, specifically the mobile betting aspect.

The plaintiffs argue that, because some of the compact violates the likes of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, DeSantis did not have the power to agree to a deal with the tribe.

Our John Holden breaks down the lawsuit and what could happen next.

June 29, 2021

A spokesperson with the Seminole Tribe has called an attempt at a constitutional amendment to open up Florida sports betting “a political Hail Mary from out-of-state corporations trying to interfere with the business of the people of Florida.”

Mere days after a ballot initiative emerged to create a more competitive regulated wagering landscape in the state, the tribe has expectedly opposed the effort to legalize sports betting on non-tribal land.

The ratified compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe would authorize legal wagering only on Seminole land and through mobile betting apps via off-reservation pari-mutuels using the tribe’s platform.

The proposed amendment, however, would widen that landscape and allow the state to tax revenue to fund the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.

Sponsored by Florida Education Champions, which includes the involvement of both DraftKings and FanDuel, the initiative will need 891,589 signatures with at least 8% of voters from 18 of the state’s 27 congressional districts signing on. Petitioning has already begun.

June 28, 2021

More details have come about regarding the proposed ballot initiative to create a more competitive sports betting landscape in Florida. Chief among them: the involvement of DraftKings and FanDuel.

Both legal sports betting powers have ties to Florida Education Champions (FEC), which has sponsored an initiative to amend the state constitution to authorize statewide mobile betting and retail wagering at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities.

The political action committee features three directors, including the vice president of government affairs for DraftKings, Griffin Finan, and FanDuel, Cory Fox. The third individual, Jeremy Kudon, works as a partners at the lobbying firm Orrick and has ties to both companies.

Florida Education Champions has backed a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by the Florida Supreme Court, would go in front of voters on the 2022 ballot. Before receiving clearance from the court, however, the FEC needs to accumulate 891,589 petition signatures by Feb. 1.

June 24, 2021

A group known as the Florida Education Champions has backed a ballot initiative to amend the Florida constitution and allow for more expanded legalized sports betting in the Sunshine State.

The proposal to Article X, Section 33 would allow for professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities in the state to offer retail wagering. The amendment would also authorize statewide mobile betting.

Sports betting operators looking to open up shop in Florida “shall not be required to engage a market access partner,” according to the initative. And sportsbooks would be able to accept bets on professional, collegiate, initernational and Olympic events.

The state would be able to tax revenue to supplement the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, but it would also need to create rules and regulations for the Florida sports betting industry.

June 22, 2021

As expected, the anti-casino group No Casinos has also entered the mix, sending a letter to the US Department of the Interior to reject the compact with the Seminole Tribe.

John G. Sowinski, president of the group, detailed several holes in the compact, provisions that are in violation of federal and state laws.

Among them is where mobile sports betting takes place in Florida. The Seminole Tribe argues that, because mobile servers will be located on tribal land, statewide betting would not violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Sowinski, though, said that a 2018 circuit court decision proves different.

That case, which involved server-based online bingo gaming in California, set a precedent that while IGRA protects gaming activity on tribal land, customers placing bets over the internet in a jurisdiction where those bets are illegal (off tribal land) violates the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and are thus illegal.

Sowinski also wrote that the compact allows for expanded Class III gaming in the state. The Florida constitution, he noted, “prohibits casino gambling games not already permitted through a vote of the people.”

Finally, like many others opposing the compact, Sowinski pointed to Amendment 3, which requires all gambling expansion off tribal land to be approved by voters.

June 11, 2021

Count Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber as one opponent of the newly ratified compact agreement between Florida and the Seminole Tribe.

Gelber penned a letter to the US Department of the Interior urging the office not to approve the agreement. He supported the goals of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, such as providing “tribes with a pathway to greater independence and economic vitality.” But, he added, this compact “was not crafted in pursuit of those goals.”

“It was simply a vehicle hijacked by non-tribal casino interests who fully corrupted the legislative and executive process in order to obtain advantages outside of tribal land and in direct contravention to the interests of Floridians.”

Gelber alleged that special interest groups provided politicians, including DeSantis, with gifts to assist in being included in the new deal.

The mayor specifically took umbrage with a special provision in the compact that would allow a pari-mutuel facility to open or relocate slot gaming to new locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties so long as the new spots are at least 15 miles from the tribe’s “facility.” To Gelber, this appears as a workaround to Amendment 3, which requires any gaming expansion off tribal land to be approved by voters.

May 19, 2021

A three-day special legislative session has led to a landmark gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. State lawmakers ratified the compact that would bring legal sports betting to Florida while also creating a Gaming Control Commission to eliminate illegal gambling in the state.

The House voted to ratify the deal with a 97-17 vote, a day after the Senate approved by a 38-1 count. The compact, which would last 30 years and guarantee $2.5 billion to the state over the first five years, now heads to the US Department of the Interior for federal approval.

While also ratifying the compact, the legislature passed several other gaming bills. One creates an independent, five-member Gaming Control Commission that would not have any authority over gaming at tribal casinos or sports betting. Rather, the commission would oversee pari-mutuel gaming and crack down on illegal gaming that arises in Florida.

A comprehensive guide to the compact, including all the details of the agreement, can be found here.

The federal government will have 45 days from reception to potentially approve the compact. Among the snags the deal could face is how mobile wagers are perceived. For example, is the location of a placed bet where the bettor stands or where servers processing the wager exists? Those servers would be located on tribal land.

If the federal government signs off on the compact, it could still face legal problems back in Florida because of the mobile betting inclusion. Voters in 2018 passed Amendment 3, which requires any expansion of gaming off tribal land to be approved by the public. One group, No Casinos, has already made it clear it intends to challenge the compact in court based on Amendment 3.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act could also create a hurdle, as it only permits compacts to allow for gaming on tribal lands.

For now, the Seminole Tribe intends to launch sports betting by Oct. 15.

May 17, 2021

The first day of the special legislative session already brought about change in the agreed-upon compact between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe.

With pressure coming from the House, both DeSantis and the Seminoles agreed to remove language that would allow for further discussion of online casino gaming in the state.

House Speaker Chris Sprowles noted that “some language in the compact could be construed to lead to the backdoor expansion of online gaming.

“Even the mere possibility of that was unacceptable.”

On top of that, knowing that legal problems could face the compact down the road, the Seminoles agreed to delay the launch of sports betting until Oct. 15.

While a Senate committee and a House subcommittee advanced bills to ratify the compact, concerns remain over the legality of sports betting provisions included in the deal.

As for inclusion, Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen assured that major sports betting operators would be able to participate in Florida’s new industry. He said that the tribe has actually received proposals from companies like FanDuel and DraftKings, the latter of which has actually employed lobbyists to kill the compact.

While Allen conceded that the compact could lead to a court battle, he emphasized that the tribe fully intends to pay its revenue share of more than $400 million.

April 23, 2021

Just like that, legalized sports betting in Florida has become more of a reality than ever before.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a compact agreement with the Seminole Tribe that would authorize retail and online sports betting in the Sunshine State.

As detailed by our Matt Kredell, the 30-year agreement guarantees at least $2.5 billion in revenue-sharing over the first five years. Through 2030, according to the governor’s estimates, the state would pocket a cool $6 billion in additional revenue. And if regulated wagering does launch, Florida, with a population of 21 million, would become the largest US state to legalize sports betting.

Not all work is done, however. State legislators need to ratify the compact during a special session held the week of May 17. Then the federal government needs to approve the agreement.

Under the deal, the Seminole Tribe could partner with pari-mutuels to offer statewide mobile betting while also offering retail wagering at the tribe’s casinos. The state would also allow for the Seminoles to add craps and roulette to the list of games offered.

While also legalizing daily fantasy sports in Florida, the compact allows for the tribe and the state to continue discussions surrounding online casino gaming. Involved parties would have 36 months from the effect date of the compact to amend the agreement and include this vertical.

Even if legislators ratify the deal, and even if the federal government approves it, the compact could face legal problems later on. After all, the agreement approves off-reservation gaming, which could be considered a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Along those lines, Amendment 3, passed by voters in 2018, requires that all gambling expansion proposals in Florida be approved by the public.

Nevertheless, this is a major step for legal sports betting in Florida.

April 16, 2021

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee unanimously advanced a bill that would create a state gaming commission while also detailing the duties of that group.

Dubbed the Gaming Control Commission, the governing body would tie into the attorney general’s office and be composed of five people appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, including members that have the following experience on their résumés:

  • Law enforcement experience
  • Certified public accountant licensed in Florida
  • Attorney authorized to practice law in Florida

The commission would have authority over all gambling in the Sunshine State except for the lottery as well as prohibit any interpretation of existing laws that would expand gaming. In addition, the panel would be tasked with reviewing regulations related to licensing, review procedures that qualify licensing, and enforce gaming regulations.

The safe bet would be that the Gaming Control Commission would also oversee legal sports betting, if the industry ever gets the go-ahead from lawmakers.

March 25, 2021

The urgency has apparently ramped up in Florida to expand gambling in the Sunshine State.

Both Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Wilton Simpson met with 20 owners of casino, racetrack and jai alai facilities to discuss gambling legislation. Afterward, DeSantis told reporters that a gambling deal is “close.”

As it is widely accepted that any gaming expansion deal would need the go-ahead from the Seminole Tribe, a deal with pari-mutuel facilities would need the tribe’s approval and avoid a popular vote over the next two election cycles.

The problem, though, is that the Seminole Tribe has had problems with the state allowing pari-mutuels to offer card games that infringe on the tribe’s exclusivity. This led to the tribe resisting to pay its annual payment to Florida.

March 16, 2021

Two weeks ago, lawmakers faced six sports betting bills. In reality, not one of them has a shot at passage. After all, any legislation aiming for success should start with a compact agreement with the Seminole Tribe, which did not occur for any of those half-dozen bills.

One incoming proposal might have a better result, though. Marc Dunbar, a gaming attorney representing but not speaking on behalf of the tribe, indicated that Sen. Travis Hutson is crafting legislation that could avoid the pitfalls faced by other gambling expansion bills.

Hutson, chair of the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries has an existing relationship with Gov. Ron DeSantis and experience the Seminole Tribe and gaming issues.

Dunbar noted that Hutson made be the person who can help orchestrate a deal between the governor and the Seminole Tribe, which could open the door for legal sports betting in Florida.

That said, Dunbar indicated that regulated wagering in Florida might not happen this year.

March 2, 2021

The legislative session for Florida began a day ago. And already, lawmakers are facing six bills that aim to legalize sports betting in the Sunshine State.

The team of Rep. Chip LaMarca and Rep. Anika Omphroy produced the majority of the sudden surge. Before December 2020, Florida did not have any bills proposed to regulate wagering.

A pair of bills from LaMarca aimed to create policy and licensing requirements for Florida sports betting, while Omphroy’s submission dealt with tax structures.

Each bill went into detail regarding the likes of application and licensing fees as well as outlawing sports pools. Omphroy’s proposed a 22.5% tax on revenue. Only four other states have higher rates.

These three proposals come on the heels of a trio of bills from Sen. Jeff Brandes, who filed them in December. Brandes proposed much lower licensing fees ($100,000 versus LaMarca’s call for $7.5 million) and tax rates (15% versus Omphroy’s 22.5%).

Photo by AP / Tyler Kaufman
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf throughout his career.

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