Don’t gamble on sportsbooks coming to Florida this year


Florida lawmakers are having about as much success advancing sports gambling legislation as the Miami Dolphins had moving the football this past NFL season.  Not only is it well-known that any attempt to legalize the activity without participation from the Seminole Indians could be fatal, priorities are now shifting and lawmakers have other issues on their minds.  According to some estimates, sports gambling in the Sunshine State may not come for another few years.dont-gamble-on-sportsbooks-coming-to-florida-this-year

As points out, the Florida Legislature is only in session until March 13, after having spent a grueling two months leading the state.  However, this is an election year, which means most politicians currently holding office are going to be concentrating more on appeasing the crowd by approving a new budget and not doing anything that could cause them to lose votes come November.

This theory is supported by a survey conducted by the Tampa Bay Times.  The media outlet queried political insiders, which it identifies as being activists, political campaign staff, lobbyists, donors, etc., on whether or not they believed sports gambling legislation and other high-profile bills, would be approved this year.  Out of the 150 that were asked, 63% said that there’s virtually no chance a sports gambling bill will make through the legislative obstacle course in 2020.

Brian Edwards, a sports junkie and analyst who leads, adds to that belief, and paints an even gloomier picture.  When asked him what he thought would happen with legislation in the state, he asserted, “It doesn’t seem like there’s any chance it’ll be legalized in time for the 2020 football season.  In fact, we might be looking at three to four years before Florida gets on board.”

There are a lot of complications in Florida when it comes to seeking approval for a life-altering bill, and the issue was made even more difficult when voters decided to take control over all gambling efforts in 2018.  A ballot entry, Amendment 3, at the November polls that year resulted in any casino expansion having to be approved by state residents.  This has thrown a monkey wrench into the legislative engine that would authorize sports gambling, with some calling the measure unconstitutional without that public vote.

There’s also an issue with certain sports gambling bills that don’t include the Seminole Indians.  The tribe has had a veritable lock on gambling in the state for decades, and is now in a fight with Florida Governor Rick DeSantis over how much money it needs to turn over to the state.  Until that issue is resolved, the smart money is on the Seminole tribe not willing to play ball with any sports gambling offering, and working to prevent it at every turn.

Perhaps it’s from too much time under the sun, but Edwards points out what most already know, but which many politicians still fail to grasp.  Legalizing sports gambling is the best way to offer consumer protection related to the practice.  Gamblers are going to gamble, regardless of whether or not the practice is legal or illegal.  By legalizing it, at least the states can provide oversight, and pick up the lost revenue at the same time.  Edwards asserts, “As more states witness all the positives and, most important, all the revenue it’s producing for states like New Jersey and Mississippi, most will eventually come around.  It’s just going to take time, and for Florida, it appears to be several years away.”