Florida Senate

  • The Florida Senate passed legislation for sports betting in the state on Tuesday.
  • The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis created a 30-year Tribal Gaming Compact that opens up sports wagering in the state.
  • With a House passage on Wednesday, sports gaming in Florida could launch starting on October 15.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Senate was in session on Tuesday to discuss and vote on opening a sports betting industry in the Sunshine State. Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida negotiated a new Tribal Gaming Compact that includes sportsbooks, craps, and roulette for a period of 30 years. This is the largest number of years for any compact to be cleared without a need for renewal.

The Senate passed the legislation by a vote of 38-1 during Tuesday’s hearing. The proposal has been sent to the House for a vote on Wednesday before going to DC for passage. Under the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, gaming expansions must be held in the Department of the Interior for 45 days before being signed off by the Secretary.

What Happened On Tuesday

A question was asked plenty throughout the hearing as to what would happen if this new agreement did not pass and a future one was to, but with commercial sportsbooks. Lawmakers wanted to ensure that the Seminole Tribe would still pay revenues on casino gaming if this were to take place.

The answer from Tribe Representatives was yes, should regulated sports betting happen outside of this agreement and allow for commercial businesses to enter the industry that the Seminoles would honor their casino gaming payments but would not need to pay any revenues on sportsbooks that they would be eligible to open.

Senator Jeff Brandes was a sponsor in the 2021 session for a Florida sports betting bill but his proposal requested commercial operators statewide. It saw no progress during the regular legislative session. He was the only one in attendance on Tuesday to vote against this legislation moving forward.

“We have decided to create a statewide monopoly for one entity for money,” said Brandes. “That’s it. It isn’t the right thing to do. It doesn’t conform to our Republicans values that we are for free markets and open competition in the state of Florida.”

Online sports betting will be allowed under this agreement through the use of pari-mutuel websites. Seven retail sports betting venues will be found on Seminole properties within the state. The three added casinos will be placed at the Hollywood Reservation owned by the Tribe. At the moment, they have only four casinos in the state.

“Not only are we beginning a new 30-year agreement with the Seminole Tribe, but we are also making needed updates to Florida law to better reflect the current gaming climate and combat illegal gambling,” said Senator Travis Hutson, who voted in favor of the proposal.

Should there be an issue involving Amendment 3, the area of the Florida Constitution that says that residents need to vote on gaming expansions, there could be a halt to all progress made with this legislation. However, lawmakers are not too wary that this will be an issue. And should the Seminole Tribe of Florida have legal problems stemming from sports betting activity and those against it, the Tribe has said they will accept any legal fees if lawsuits loom for them in the future.

What’s Up Next?

Florida will be guaranteed $2.5 billion over five years. The state will receive a minimum of $500 million annually from these new expansions. Currently, with only casino gaming, they’ve received $350 million each year. Naysayers in the legislature said they felt left out of the process for this entire drafting of the bill in areas such as where the money would go. However, it was stated that the legislature will have to come up with the next budget proposal and that is when they can say where money from the sports betting industry could go.

“By comprehensively addressing issues raised for almost a decade, this historic legislation restores Florida’s relationship with the Seminole Tribe, offers new opportunities for Florida’s legacy pari-mutuel industry, and provides substantial new revenues for our state,” said Wilton Simpson, Senate President.

There are three parts to this proposal, SB 2-A, SB 4-A, and SB 8-A. All are looking for passage within the House on Wednesday. SB 2-A is the regulation of sports betting in Florida part, the main bill. SB 4-A  deals with the enforcement of the industry. The legislation seeks a more in-depth overseeing of gaming practices to make sure no fraudulent sports wagering activity is taking place in the state. SB 8-A simply puts the rules of slot machines, races, and cardrooms into more modernized terms.

If the House passes these three bills on Wednesday, they will then go to DC for the green light to launch retail and online sports betting in Florida as early as October 15.

The House session begins on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EST for the final vote.

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