Florida Football Fans Will Have To Keep Waiting For Sports Betting

  • Amendment 3 ensures that any casino expansion in the state of Florida must be brought about and approved by FL voters.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins both opposed Amendment 3 leading up to it’s November 2018 vote.
  • The Seminole Tribe of Florida has ceased making payments to the state in the midst of ongoing compact negotiations with FL Governor Ron DeSantis.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On Saturday, football fans from across the country tuned in to watch the Sunshine Showdown featuring the Miami Hurricanes against the Florida Gators.

However, while football fans in 11 states were able to bet on the game, many in the state of Florida were wondering when they will get a chance to engage in legal sports betting. An answer for that question is difficult to give for several reasons.

What Happened In 2018?

As many now know, the passing of Amendment 3 in November of 2018 has complicated the outlook for any type of casino gambling expansion in the Sunshine State. Florida voters will now have to approve expanded gambling through a citizen-led initiative rather than through the legislature passing a bill or putting it on a ballot.

The measure was largely backed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Disney. According to the Orlando Sentinel, by September of 2018, Disney had contributed $19.6 million and the Seminole Tribe donated $16.7 million to Voters in Charge, a registered group supporting the amendment.

Opponents of the amendment argued that citizen-led initiatives are more difficult to organize and that by passing the amendment it will slow down the ability for any type of gambling expansion to take place in the state.

This would give the tribe exclusivity over casino gaming in Florida and would allow Disney to limit tourism and entertainment dollars to them. Many opponents also believed that the amendment would limit the ability to legalize sports betting in Florida.

Two of those opponents include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins. The Buccaneers donated $500,000 to a group known as “Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3”, as reported by floridapolitics.com.

The Miami Dolphins urged FL residents to vote no on Amendment 3 via twitter in the days leading up to the 2018 election day. That tweet has since been removed, possibly due to the fact that the Miami Dolphins Stadium is financed by Hard Rock Café which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Amendment 3 ultimately passed with close to 70% of voters voting yes.

What Action Has Been Taken In 2019?

The ability to bring about sportsbooks in Florida was not completely lost with the passing of Amendment 3. This year, the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have tried to negotiate an updated gaming compact. Negotiations have included allowing the tribe to offer more games such as sports betting.

However, the Tribe’s main concern is the ability to retain exclusivity over house-banked card games. Currently, there are pari-mutuel betting facilities in the state that offer this type of amenity which the tribe’s, along with a federal judge, say violates an original agreement made in 2010.

Because the tribe and the state were not able to come to terms on a new compact before this year’s legislative session ended, the Seminoles have ceased making payments to the state. Those payments totaled nearly $330 million dollars just last year.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was given a proposal for a 31-year agreement less than two weeks before the 2019 legislative session ended.

But, in May, Governor DeSantis said he needed more time to review the plan and that he would continue to talk with the tribe throughout the summer. He was hoping to reach an agreement and have something for lawmakers to vote on as early as September of this year.

“The tribe respects your desire to take more time to review the issues and to resume discussions this summer,” wrote Seminole Tribal Council Chairman, Marcellus Osceola Jr., in a letter to the governor. “In the meantime, the tribe will follow its agreement with the state and suspend its revenue share payments until the illegal banked card game issue is resolved.”

The suspension of payments may not have the immediate effect that gaming expansion hopefuls anticipated. Tribal gaming revenue wasn’t added in the state’s 2019-2020 fiscal year budget.

Since is wasn’t added in, “the fact that they will not be made has no financial impact on any government function,” said House Speaker Jose Olivia.

This seeming lack of urgency will likely push the deadline for a new agreement between the state and the tribe even further. This means sports betting enthusiasts in Florida will have to keep waiting longer to put down money on their home teams at a FL sportsbook as well.

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