The Sunshine State is very cloudy when it comes to legalized sports betting. The state of gambling has always been a little bit murky in Florida. A lot of states are trying to come to agreements with various tribes to offer large-scale gambling or find a deal that allows the state to cut in with some of the tribe’s revenue. Few tribes in the United States are as powerful as the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
While the two sides have generally got along pretty amicably in Florida, the concept of sports betting, something that can be done easily from anywhere as opposed to most forms of retail gaming, has been a tough nut to crack. So far, there has been some discussion, but nothing formal has been presented to the tribe or made it up to the highest link on the chain.
One of the big points of contention is and has always been the racetracks in Florida. There are greyhound and horse tracks that are owned and operated independent of the Seminole Tribe. The Seminole Tribe more or less has a stranglehold on casino gambling in the state. Whether or not they will be willing to work the racetracks in on the sports betting deal is up for debate.
Promising discussions were had in 2019 that almost led to a deal, but Governor Rick DeSantis, who has had some issues with gaming and the Seminole Tribe during his tenure, wouldn’t put his John Hancock on an altered gaming compact, which included sports betting and even included betting at the racetracks. That was the closest that Florida has gotten and hasn’t come close since.
DeSantis isn’t really on board with expanded gaming in the state of Florida, so things are at a standstill. Legislators appear willing to work with the Seminole Tribe, but the governor does not. With no semblance of cooperation from the governor, it doesn’t seem like anything is going to come together anytime soon. Because DeSantis just took office in 2019, it could have Florida pushed back well behind several other states in the quest to legalize sports betting.
Options are very, very limited for Floridians. Obviously most of Florida’s border is made up of bodies of water. The land borders are shared with Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Georgia and Alabama do not have any legalized sports betting. Mississippi does, but it is only retail sports betting. Furthermore, the vast majority of Florida’s population lives nowhere near the Mississippi border.
There are no sports betting areas anywhere near Orlando or Miami or Tampa or Jacksonville or Fort Lauderdale. There aren’t even any near Tallahassee, as a place like Biloxi is more than a four-hour drive.
That leaves plane travel. Flying to Las Vegas obviously makes a lot of sense for those that want to bet on sports. Louisiana may have sports betting in the not too distant future, which would open up a destination like New Orleans. Tennessee will be online by the fall of 2020 in all likelihood, so betting can be done with a trip to Nashville or to follow the Gators up to Knoxville.
It does seem like sports betting will eventually come to Florida. The state is too big and too populous to lose out on tax revenue of that magnitude, but it doesn’t seem like it will happen in 2020.