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The Current State of Online Gambling in Florida & Success in Alternate Locations 

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From a technical standpoint, sports betting was legalized in May 2021, but Floridians could be waiting a long time before online sports betting is accessible.

Back in May 2021, the Seminole Tribe of Florida were granted a monopoly on Florida sports betting, and the launch of their online Android/iOS app rolled out in compliance with a 30-year agreement.

However, many legal objections were raised, and one of those challenging the Tribe proved successful, subsequently forcing the Seminole Tribe to remove their Hard Rock Sportsbook app following the rejections of their appeals. 

A sports betting initiative was launched with the assistance of significant operators like DraftKings and FanDuel, but the level of votes required for the 2022 election ballot wasn't reached.

Florida sports betting

Passed in May 2021 and effective on November 1st last year, the Sunshine state saw mobile sports betting arrive via the Hard Rock mobile application.

Unfortunately for those online wagering in Florida, Secretary Deb Haaland won the court case versus West Flager Associates. The Seminole Tribe had no choice but to remove the newly instated sportsbook app.

Despite FanDuel and DraftKings' efforts to push through a mobile sports betting initiative, a lack of signatures won't give online wagering another chance of legalization until 2023 at the earliest.

Due to the potential for capital gains for the state, the sports betting market in Florida will undoubtedly become legal, but it won't be for another year.

The nearby states & their success

Since sports betting isn't live within the state of Florida, residents of the Sunshine State are naturally eager to place sports bets. Adding to the disappointment, surrounding states, Alabama and Georgia, cannot provide legal sports betting either. 

The potential of Florida in the sports betting market is vast; as a perfect representation of gambling popularity and state size, the online gambling success in Illinois is the most comparable to Florida's potential success in the market.

Online sports betting in Illinois has quickly become one of the top three mobile wagering states in the U.S. Following a rocky start, Illinois sports betting is on a consistent uptrend, and the state has recently abolished the unnecessary need for in-person registration.

Sports wagering in court won't be resolved anytime soon

The current Florida gaming compact needs to be resolved before the legislature will consider any new compacts.

The 2021 compact remains in judicial limbo without an end date mentioned, and until it has worked its way through the courts, no alternative action can be taken. And this is a shame as the upcoming legislature session in May won't involve a new compact being discussed.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the $500 million compact in 2021 following its passing in a special session of the Florida Legislature.

Major money but nothing from wagers 

Florida boasted the highest U.S. state budget in history ($112 billion), and none of this money was in coalition with Florida's sports betting revenue.

This isn't the most excellent news for those expecting a return of legalized sports wagering in Florida. Still, the legal community also anticipated the difficulties of maintaining its presence in the Sunshine State. Even those in support of the gaming compact knew the approach to sports betting was a hopeful stay, at best.

In 2018, Amendment 3 was put through, which prevents the expansion of "casino gambling" in the state of FL unless a 60% vote is approved in a statewide election. It didn't mention that "sports betting" was legalized following the draft of the amendment but before its passing.

Ironically, the money put forth in support of Amendment 3 stemmed from Disney and the Seminole Tribe, the two companies that are now leading the sports betting push.

DK & FanDuel take a hit

As the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and Florida was underway, the FEC (Florida Education Champions) began the measures in preparation for the 2022 state ballot for legalizing mobile and physical sports wagering. 

Hopes were bleak from the onset, as the recruitment for signatures didn't start until halfway through 2021. DK and FanDuel spent a combined $36 million on the initiative, but a lackluster number of signatures fell 370,000 short of making it onto the ballot.

Should the 2021 compact sustain an appeal in federal court, mobile sports betting could arrive in Florida sooner than expected. However, this is highly unlikely, therefore extending the drought of online wagering in FL as far as 2025.

Amendment 3 prevents the legislature from allowing any new form of gambling in the Sunshine State – bar the compact with the Seminole Tribe. The Tribe can provide on-site sports wagering within Indian lands, including the Hard Rock Casinos.

With that said, nothing will be pursued unless the current compact is dealt with in a court of law.

The future of the compact

Should the compact be maintained, we could see an imminent return of the Hard Rock Sportsbook app. Those customers who relished 34-days of online wagering when it was previously launched would be able to resume their online sports betting positions.

If the compact is shattered, Florida and the Tribe could agree to a new deal, but this wouldn't occur until the 2023 legislative session.

A compact would lock out the major betting operators. A combined effort with BetMGM, DK, FanDuel, Penn/Barstool, and Caesars Sportsbook will be an intelligent decision if these companies want to establish themselves inside a state that could become the most lucrative market in America. Florida survived a mere five weeks last time out, but it was the most populous state to make online sports betting legal.

The failed initiative funded by DK and FanDuel has been moved to the 2024 election cycle, but the hundreds of thousands of signatures previously gained will be reset. Close to 900,000 signatures would be required for the next Florida ballot. 

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