After a brief taste of sports betting in 2021, this year wasn’t a good one for Florida gamblers. However, the CEO of a pari-mutuel facility believes that will change relatively soon.
The court case surrounding the 2021 Florida gaming compact is still tied up in the D.C. Court of Appeals. The agreement allowed for momentary Florida sports betting for a few weeks in November. However, a federal judge ruled the deal violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and forced the Seminole Tribe to shutter its Hard Rock Sportsbook.
The appellate court may give a favorable ruling for the tribe and sports betting returns in 2023. But even if it doesn’t, the 2024 election cycle appears very promising for bettors. A sports betting ballot initiative failed in 2022, but big money continues to back the proposal that would bring the nation’s largest online sportsbooks to the Sunshine State.
This week, Magic City Casino COO Scott Savin and others in the Florida gaming industry said they believe sports betting will be legal in Florida in 2025. The timeline indicates that Savin and his colleagues believe voters will approve an initiative in November 2024.
“Now … I think it’ll be 2025, and then there will be sports betting,” Savin Told Gaming Today.
Savin is putting his money where his mouth is
There’s a big indicator that Savin truly believes sports betting is on its way to Florida. Southwest Florida Enterprises, the group that owns Magic City, donated $4 million to Florida Education Champions (FEC). FEC is the PAC that submitted an initiative this year that would’ve legalized betting on sports in the state.
What’s interesting about that donation is that it came after the initiative failed to make the 2022 ballot. The donation seems to be more of a down payment on the initiative’s future.
And Southwest Florida Enterprises isn’t the only group with deep pockets that wants to see a Florida with sports betting that isn’t controlled exclusively by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
DraftKings and FanDuel donated more than $25 million to the FEC initiative. Their funding likely won’t back off once the effort to get on the 2024 ballot ramps up.
Why a sports betting initiative would aid state’s pari-mutuels
The current state compact with the Seminole Tribe allows pari-mutuels to offer mobile sports betting. However, facilities like Magic City would have to give a 40% cut of their revenue to the Seminole Tribe. That’s in addition to other fees they’d owe the companies they partner with to offer a betting app.
An initiative that allowed an open market for sports betting would eliminate that 40% payment. For example, FEC’s failed 2022 initiative would have allowed pari-mutuels to obtain a sports betting license and hire whichever operator they chose, as long as the operator met certain requirements for time-in-business.
What a 2024 initiative could look like
Should the initiative push forward toward the 2024 ballot in its current state, Florida bettors would see sports wagering unfold like this:
- The Seminole Tribe and operators who’ve met time-in-business requirements could launch within eight months of the amendment going live.
- After 20 months, other operators could enter the state.
Those provisions will likely change, as the time-in-business requirements favored bigger nationwide operators like FanDuel and DraftKings who joined the market in 2018. Numerous sports betting operators have grown their national presence over the past year, meaning there will be far more companies who could meet the current initiative’s standards.