FL Environmental Projects Will Receive $750M From Gambling Tax Revenue

Written By Adam Hensley on April 12, 2024
A picture of the environment for a story about how Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that directed gambling tax revenue towards environmental projects.

A new law in Florida directs tax revenue from gambling to fund environmental projects and services across the state.

Senate Bill 1638, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last week, allocates $750 million a year to the environment. The money wasn’t specifically tied to anything in the past.

It will help fund projects like removal of invasive species and water infrastructure restorations, DeSantis said at the signing.

“Among Florida’s greatest assets are its natural resources. This revenue stream will further enhance our efforts to conserve our natural resources, protect our waterways and make our ecological infrastructure more resilient.”

Money comes from 2021 compact the state signed with the Seminoles

The fund will be aided by tax dollars from Florida sports betting, which became legal again late last year. How much is not known.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which enjoys exclusivity over sports wagering and a near monopoly on casino gambling in the state, does not report what percentage of the money it pays the state comes from sports betting. Instead, the tribe reports total revenue numbers and pays a percentage based on that.

Because of tribal sovereignty, this is the norm, even in other states, for tribal gaming revenue. On the other hand, governments typically mandate commercial operators to break down revenue game-by-game.

According to a CBS News report, DeSantis pointed out at the signing that roughly 2,000 miles of canals in Florida need restoration. The money will also fund research projects and help to improve Florida’s wetlands and its water quality, DeSantis said.

“It’s one in a series of landmark efforts that we’ve done over these last five-plus years to conserve Florida’s natural resources and to restore some of the great treasures that this state has, such as our Florida Everglades.”

The funding was part of the Seminole Tribe’s 2021 gaming compact with the state. Besides allowing the tribe to offer sports betting in the Sunshine State, the pact added table games the Seminoles could offer at its casinos, including craps and roulette. In turn, the tribe would pay the state $2.5 billion over the deal’s first five years. That number is set to grow over time.

Estimations suggest that in the next fiscal year, roughly $100 million will fund land acquisitions, $150 million will go to flood control and $96 million will be allocated to land management.

At least three agencies will receive funding from the tax revenue:

  • Department of Environmental Protection
  • Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

How much money from sports betting does the tribe pay to Florida?

While the Seminole’s tax bill to the state from gambling is made public, how much comes from sports betting is not shared by the tribe nor the state.

An estimate could come from looking at a five-month span from October 2021 to February 2022. Each month, the Seminole Tribe paid the state $37.5 million for a total of $187.5 million.

Fast-forward to December 2023, the first full month after sports betting relaunched in Florida. Keep in mind, the tribe also collected money from adding table games.

The tribe paid the state nearly $58 million in December. That number jumped even higher in January, to just over $62 million.

It’s safe to assume that craps and roulette accounted for a few million in the new totals. Let’s say $6 million for this exercise. We’ll subtract $6 million from both December 2023’s and January 2024’s revenue totals.

Then let’s compare the difference between those months’ payment totals to what the tribe paid each month in that previous five-month span in 2022.

By that math, the Seminole Tribe probably paid the state about $13.8 million in December and $18.2 million in January from sports betting. These are extremely conservative estimates given how much online sports betting markets generates in other states.

Of course, only the tribe knows the exact figure.

Florida’s total gaming revenue expected to skyrocket in the coming years

The state’s coffers are expected to get a significant boost from sports betting moving forward.

The Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research estimated that payments from gambling for this fiscal year (July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024) will come out to nearly $344 million.

Experts estimate that the figure will essentially double the following year. Research indicates the tribe will pay Florida upwards of $749 million during that span.

That figure is estimated to jump to $890 million the year after.

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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