Daily Fantasy Sports Bill Fails To Pass Florida Legislature

Written By Adam Hensley on March 8, 2024 - Last Updated on March 11, 2024
A picture of legislation for a story about how Florida's DFS bills failed to pass the legislature.

It appears daily fantasy sports in Florida won’t be officially legal any time soon.

Earlier this week, Senate Bill 1568 failed to advance to the Senate floor. The bill tried to explicitly legalize the industry by putting operators under the purview of the Florida Gaming Control Commission. With no discussion, reading or voting scheduled, the bill is essentially dead. The 2024 session ended today.

What does that mean for daily fantasy sports in Florida moving forward?

What was in SB 1568?

Florida daily fantasy sports exists in a legal “gray” area. Lawmakers have failed to officially legalize DFS, so the state continues to lose out on tax revenue from the industry. SB 1568 would have rectified that.

State Sen. Travis Hutson introduced SB 1568 in January, which reads:

“Designating the ‘Fantasy Sports Contest Amusement Act’; requiring the Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) to enforce and administer the act; providing application requirements for fantasy sports contest operator licenses; requiring a contest operator to implement specified consumer protection procedures; requiring contest operators to keep and maintain certain records for a specified period, etc.”

SB 1568 would have made DFS games centered around college sports illegal. Additionally, it would have prohibited wagers that resembled sports betting.

“All winning outcomes must reflect the relative knowledge and skill of participants and be determined by accumulated statistical results of the performing individuals, including athletes in the case of sporting events. No winning outcome is based on the score, point spread, the performance of a single team or combination of teams; solely on any single performance of an individual athlete or player in a single event; on pari-mutuel events; on poker or other card games; or on performances of those participating in collegiate, high school or youth sporting events.”

Hutson also filed a companion bill, SB 1566. His second bill would establish the regulations for the now expressly legal industry. For example, the licensing fees and procedures were in SB 1566.

Why didn’t the DFS bill pass in Florida?

One obvious reason for SB 1568’s failure is that Florida lawmakers want to protect tribal exclusivity on gaming in the state.

Residents can place a sports bet at any tribal casino within the state, or they can wager online through the Hard Rock Bet FL app. DraftKings and FanDuel do have a Florida presence, but only in the DFS space, not sports betting like in neighboring states.

The path to legal sports betting in Florida came about through a compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. If DFS were to be officially legalized, the tribe wouldn’t want it infringing on its sports betting agreement. There’s a good chance they’d want a slice of the pie, if not the entire thing.

There’s also a good chance DFS legalization was too close to sports betting’s re-launch in Florida. Just three months ago, the Seminoles officially relaunched the Hard Rock Bet app after a contentious court battle. At the same time, the state legalized craps and roulette along with retail sports betting.

Online sports betting was previously available in 2021 for a month before being shut down until late 2023.

Florida leaders are keeping an eye on the landscape for sports betting and how other states have gone about expanding their markets. But they also want to see what trends develop in their own market as it matures, rather than legalize another gambling option.

DFS could be in line down the road, but one could assume that Florida is taking a calculated approach with its gambling industry as a whole.

DFS operators stopped pick’em games in Florida earlier this month

In February, the FGCC sent cease-and-desist letters to three DFS operators: Betr, Underdog Fantasy and PrizePicks.

On March 1, the three shuttered their pick’em games in Florida. Only one of the three, Underdog Fantasy, still operates in Florida offering traditional DFS contests.

The FGCC sent the letters because it believed the operators were “offering or accepting illegal bets or wagers from residents” and “conducting illegal lotteries.”

This wasn’t the first time the commission had sent cease-and-desist letters to the DFS operators. In September, all three companies received letters saying that “betting or wagering on the result of contests of skill, such as sports betting, including fantasy sports betting, is strictly prohibited and constitutes a felony offense unless such activity is otherwise exempted by statute.”

The operators have continued to argue that their offerings are not games of skill.

In a world where SB 1568 would have been signed into law after passing through the House, the three operators would have been able to apply for a fantasy sports license. It might not be a coincidence that these operators ceased their pick’em offerings in Florida a week before SB 1568 came to a screeching halt.

Photo by PlayFL
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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