Florida sports betting bill a non-starter without Seminole approval


florida-sports-betting-bill-doaFlorida’s sports bettors are celebrating a new push to legalize wagering in the state, although the bill’s apparent attempt to ignore local tribal gaming interests effectively make this betting baby stillborn.

On Monday, Florida State Sen. Jeff Brandes filed bills to authorize online and mobile sports betting under the watchful eye of the Florida Lottery, while retail betting via Lottery-run kiosks would also be permitted. Betting revenue would be taxed at a rate of 15% while betting license application and renewal fees would cost $100k.

There are other provisions of the bills, including a lengthy list of individuals with any connection to sports who would be prohibited from placing wagers. The legislation would also permit the Lottery to set a limit on the maximum size of any single sporting wager.

While the legislation allows for private operators to apply for online betting licenses, there’s no mention whatsoever of the Seminole Tribe, which operates six casinos in the state. The Seminoles essentially hold veto power over all local gaming-related proposals and will most assuredly ensure that this betting proposal goes absolutely nowhere.

This spring, the Seminoles called a halt to the hundreds of millions of dollars in casino revenue-sharing payments they kicked back to the state each year. The tribe has long maintained that the state isn’t doing enough to rein in local cardrooms, which the tribe accuses of horning in on their state-approved monopoly over ‘house-banked’ card games.

An ill-fated attempt was made this year to authorize legal wagering at the tribe’s casinos and at state pari-mutuel racetracks, although the latter would have functioned as the tribe’s betting ‘affiliates’ with a responsibility to kick back a slice of their betting proceeds to the tribe.

There’s also the small matter of the ballot initiativethat Florida residents approved one year ago amending the state constitution to require any gambling expansion to secure approval of 60% of voters. And any gambling expansion proposal will face a barrage of negative campaigning from The Walt Disney Co, which has long felt that gambling clashes with its family-friendly vibe at Disney World.

Oregon launched its legal online betting market in mid-October via Scoreboard, a digital monopoly operated by the Oregon Lottery. Over the final two weeks of last month, Scoreboard handled total wagers of $5.6m, of which the Lottery kept $218k.

The numbers are somewhat underwhelming, but then again, Oregon has a population of only around 4m souls. The Lottery also hasn’t exactly been promoting Scoreboard with any particular vigor, possibly to minimize fallout should any potential kinks appear in the SBTech-powered product. Tune in next month to see if four NFL Sundays can help put Scoreboard on the radar of state bettors.