Millions of tax dollars could have piled up this year from legal Florida sports betting. Instead, while several professional and collegiate teams in Florida enjoyed success in 2023, the state coffers failed to benefit.
The Miami Heat and Florida Panthers have each reached the Eastern Conference Finals, cultivating tremendous interest in the NBA and NHL in southern Florida and across the Sunshine State.
Earlier this year, two Florida schools — Miami and Florida Atlantic — advanced to the Final Four in men’s March Madness.
In January, the Miami Dolphins played their first NFL playoff game in six seasons.
To top it off, more than a month into the MLB season, the Tampa Bay Rays have baseball’s best record and are threatening to set a home run record.
… And all that success has generated exactly $0 in legal Florida sports betting tax revenue.
Why sportsbooks aren’t live for Heat, Panthers success in Florida
Currently, Florida sports betting is not legal.
It briefly was in 2021, when the Seminole Tribe signed a newly negotiated gaming compact that allowed it to offer sports betting. Sunshine State bettors got to bet using the tribe’s Hard Rock Sportsbook Florida app from Nov. 1-Dec. 4. At that point, the app was shut down after a federal judge ruled the gaming compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The Seminole Tribe appealed that ruling, and a verdict is expected any day. If the federal judge’s decision is repealed, the Seminole Tribe will again be able to offer its sportsbook online and in-person.
How much money is Florida losing?
Specific sports betting regulations have yet to be debated in Florida, so it’s difficult to speculate on how much tax revenue has been lost without a legal market.
But the compact in question would have delivered $2.5 billion to the state in the first five years of the deal. Experts estimate it could have been worth as much as $20 billion in tax revenue for the state over the course of the 30 years. But a court found that the compact violated the rights of non-tribal gaming enterprises, and may also go against federal tribal laws, and paused it.
If Florida had a sports betting market, it’s possible it could be as large as that of Pennsylvania or maybe even New York.
With 22 million people, Florida is slightly larger than New York, but comes in almost 10 million ahead of Pennsylvania, which generated more than $400 million in sports betting revenue in 2022, for a tax bill of more than $130 million.
New York taxes sports betting operators at 51% on adjusted gross revenue, the highest figure in the country. Florida has a market that could be half a billion in annual revenue. If it was taxed at the 51% rate like New York, Florida’s sports betting market could generate around $20 million monthly in tax revenue.
The lost year for Florida sports wagering
There’s no guarantee betting on the Heat or betting on the Panthers would have generated huge sums of tax dollars.
But … come on.
The success of local sports teams helps fuel interest in sports betting in that state. And with the winning streak that Florida teams are on, it’s likely that 2023 would have been a fantastic year for sportsbooks in the state.
Only California and Texas, the two most populated states, garner as much interest in regards to their sports betting markets.
In 2022, California voters rejected a pair of ballot proposals that would have legalized online and retail sportsbooks.
In Texas, a state constitutional amendment would be required to allow a referendum for the voters to give a thumbs up or down on sports betting. That amendment has yet to be passed by the legislature, and it appears there is not enough political support for such a move at this time.
Florida could see movement on sports betting in 2023, if the court releases its ruling on the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact in the next seven months — which it’s expected to do.