Get ready, Dolphins fans; The sunshine state begins sports betting on October 15th. Governor Ron DeSantis announced Friday that the 45 day approval period for Florida State senate bill 2-A has passed. As a result, the sports gambling legislation was de-facto approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The bill, which concerned a gaming compact between the state government and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, will not only bring sports wagering to the tribe’s casinos but to desktops and mobile devices as well. With online sports betting going live, residents could soon place wagers on their favorite teams from the comfort of their homes.
The State Of Senate Bill 2-A
Senate Bill 2-A was initially drafted in April after Governor DeSantis reached an agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, allowing the tribe to begin not only sports betting but the introduction of roulette and craps tables. These games will soon be available at all of the tribe’s casinos, including the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino in Tampa, Florida.
In May, the Florida Senate signed the legislation, pushing the bill forward. It then went for federal approval, where it hit a roadblock in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The exact cause for the delay is unknown, but there has been speculation that a pending lawsuit in federal court may have caused the department’s indecision.
The Bill’s Antagonists
Two ballot initiatives have also been drafted, both in an attempt to weaken the Seminole’s monopoly on sports betting. One of the initiatives, funded by sports booking giants DraftKings and Fanduel, is slated to be on ballots by 2022.
These companies poured $20 million into a campaign promoting the measure, which would allow them to operate within the state of Florida legally. But, unfortunately, this would harm the Seminole Tribe’s gambling revenues and disrupt their gaming compact with the state’s government.
Florida legislators also raised their concerns, asking where tax revenue from the expanded gambling operations will go. Lawmakers want to dedicate some of this money to address gambling addiction as other states have done.
Governor DeSantis has been a large proponent of the legislation, stating it would greatly benefit the state’s economy, expanding their tourism and recreation revenue. However, whether this money would go towards county health services and the treatment of gambling addiction remains to be seen.
The Seminole Tribe
With sovereignty as a tribal nation, the Seminole Tribe has facilitated legitimate gambling in Florida since 1979. Starting with a single high-stakes bingo parlor, they have expanded to many casinos throughout the state. In addition to opening more locations to gamble, they added new games as well: slot machines, card games like blackjack and poker, and now, sports betting.
The gaming agreement also allows Florida’s racetracks to develop their own sports betting apps due to the exclusion of outside sports betting operators. In addition to horse and dog tracks, the bill will allow betting on Jai Alai, a lesser-known sport popular in Florida’s gambling communities.
The Strange Sport Of Jai Alai
The obscure sport, played by bouncing a ball off a walled space at high speeds using a special glove, known as a Cesta, will soon have its own legitimate betting channels. Played on an open-walled court called a fronton, the sport is most popular in Spain, France, and some Latin American countries, played on an open-walled court called a fronton.
Recently, Jai Alai has seen a resurgence in popularity in the Sunshine State, with 12-state authorized jai alai permit holders currently operating. The passage of this bill means this sport will expand to Seminole Casinos and allow for even more chances to rise in popularity. Additionally, with the sport’s revenue estimated at 8.5 million a year, Jai Alai has the potential to bring in substantial money for the tribe.
Benefits For The State Of Florida
The agreement is not only beneficial for the Seminole Tribe, as part of the bill included a large sum of revenue to go directly to the state’s coffers. As per the gaming compact, Florida is entitled to $20 Billion dollars in taxes from the tribe, with $2.5 billion guaranteed over the next five years.
Though the Department of the Interior did not technically pass the bill, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act states that by deciding neither yay or nay, the legislation is approved. Thus, barring any intervention by the court system, October 15th will finally mark the beginning of legitimate sports betting for Florida’s residents.