Governor DeSantis Signs Florida Gambling Expansion Bill

  • Ron DeSantis signed a tribal compact into law that would legalize online sports betting in Florida.
  • DeSantis negotiated the compact, which was then approved by the House and Senate.
  • There are still several legal obstacles to be overcome before sports betting is available in FL.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed several bills to legalize various forms of online gambling in the state of Florida.

The main course of the bills was Senate Bill 2-A, a deal negotiated by DeSantis with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to legalize sports betting via the Seminole Tribe. The bill allows the Tribe to offer sports betting across the state, as long as the online servers hosting the sports betting information are located on tribal land.

The earliest that online sportsbooks could be launched in Florida, per the bill, is October 15, 2021.

There are still some issues to overcome when it comes to legalizing sports betting statewide in Florida, however.

Federal regulators from the US Department of the Interior are required to look at the new agreement with the states. These regulators have three options - they can approve the deal, ignore the deal, or reject the deal. Obviously, Florida is hoping that the deal is approved, and it seems likely that the DoI will approve it.

There will also be legal challenges to the bill under Florida’s Amendment 3, passed in 2018.

This amendment was passed by anti-gambling advocates, and required that any expansion of gambling in the state be subject to a vote by the citizens of the state.

This was done in order to add another hurdle to the process of online gambling. Notably, the Seminole Tribe itself contributed to this effort. Why would they do this? Because Amendment 3 has a carveout for deals with the Tribe, which this bill technically is.

The argument, then, is that even though the servers are run on tribal property, offering sports betting to people not on tribal property serves as an expansion of gambling in the state, and is thus subject to Amendment 3.

One other important aspect of the compact - and part of what got the Seminole Tribe to the bargaining table - is that the Tribe is now allowed to offer craps and roulette.

This means that casino-goers in Florida can access these games when gambling at casinos owned by the Seminole Tribe, such as the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

The Seminole Tribe comes out a winner here, as does DeSantis, although legal hurdles still loom, and need to be overcome.