What Does Crist’s Gubernatorial Nomination Mean for Florida Sports Betting?

Written By JR Duren on August 26, 2022
Would Crist support sports betting in Florida as governor? 

Rep. Charlie Crist has won the Democratic nomination for governor in Florida. Sports-betting fans have one big question: Would Crist support sports betting in Florida as governor? 

Last November, a judge’s order blocked the Seminole Tribe from offering sports betting in Florida. The ruling invalidated the new gaming compact negotiated by the Seminoles and Gov. Ron DeSantis. The ruling is already being appealed and a final decision on that case is expected in early 2023.

Crist ousted Nikki Fried in a lopsided primary victory on Aug. 23. He won by more than 24 percentage points. Crist responded to the victory on Twitter.

“I’m officially the Democratic nominee who’ll go head-to-head with Ron DeSantis this November. I’m deeply grateful that Floridians showed out to defend integrity, democracy and freedom.”

Crist’s background with Florida sports betting

While Crist is now running as a Democrat, he was the Republican governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. During that time, he negotiated the state’s first compact with the Seminoles.

The compact was a big win for both parties. The state guaranteed itself at least $1 billion in tax revenue, and the tribe won exclusive rights over slots and house-backed card games. Additionally, the compact opened the door for spread poker games at the state’s pari-mutuels and cardrooms. 

Tribe Chairman Mitchell Cypress thanked Crist at the time.

“Another important milestone has been reached in the Seminole Tribe’s long effort to establish a compact with the state of Florida. We again want to thank Gov. Crist for his continued support and we are hopeful and optimistic that the compact will ultimately become law.”

Which side will get Seminole Tribe’s support?

Though Crist no doubt won the favor of the Seminole Tribe during his term as governor, the tribe has shown incredible support for Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Seminoles recently donated $1 million to the governor through the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC. That followed donations totaling $3 million the tribe gave to the Republican Governors Association.

Last year, DeSantis signed a new compact with the tribe that included exclusive rights over mobile sports betting. And while a federal judge struck down the sports betting aspect of the compact, it didn’t do much damage to the governor’s relationship with the tribe. The tribe knows DeSantis will go to bat for them. 

And because of that, Seminole contributions will probably keep pouring into DeSantis’ campaign. 

But what if DeSantis loses?

The tribe would likely jump ship and do what they could to earn Crist’s favor. It should be a relatively easy transition for the tribe considering its history with Crist. However, the wild card here is that Crist has been relatively quiet about his position on sports betting. PlayFL reached out to the congressman for his position on sports betting but did not hear back. 

Could Fried play a role in sports betting?

After Crist’s victory on Tuesday, Fried said she would be “happy to run as Crist’s lieutenant governor. Basically, she said she will do whatever it takes to defeat DeSantis. 

If Fried becomes Crist’s running partner, that may be good news for sports betting. Fried used to be a lobbyist; her aptitude for persuasion may be an asset for Crist down the road. She has the kind of experience needed to broker deals between big players.

In this case, the Seminole Tribe or out-of-state sports betting operators and Florida lawmakers. 

Photo by Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
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JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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