As Florida deals with online gambling expansion, Sen. Travis Hutson filed a fantasy sports bill (SB 1566) and a companion bill (SB 1568) on Jan. 5.
Florida has laws that regulate gambling activities in the state. However, there is no law addressing fantasy sports in particular.
The two bills and the ongoing debate about the fantasy sports companies accused of operating potentially illegal betting games all come ahead of the 2024 legislative session, scheduled for today, Jan. 9.
The argument over fantasy sports in Florida is still unresolved
About a month ago, Rep. Jason Shoaf submitted HB 679 to the Florida House of Representatives, a fantasy sports measure that would resemble federal legislation. The pre-filed bill hasn’t been introduced to the Senate and does not include a proposed tax rate.
If it passes, depending on its final language, it could reverse the state’s ban on pick ’em fantasy.
The attempt to make fantasy sports fully legal and regulated in Florida came a few months after the Florida Control and Gaming Commission sent a cease-and-desist letter to three fantasy operators in the state. The commission threatened legal action if the gambling sites didn’t instantly stop.
Sen. Joe Gruters demanded the commission to explain why they targeted those companies and why they may be breaking the law when the two leading companies in the industry – DraftKings and FanDuel – are not. Gruters raised his concerns in the Dec. 18 letter to Lou Trombetta, the commission’s executive director.
In particular, the senator pointed to the cease-and-desist letters Trombetta sent to:
- Underdog Fantasy
- SidePrize LLC (also known as Performance Predictions LLC), doing business as PrizePicks
- Betr Picks
All three companies have hired a renowned slate of lobbyists, like Nick Iarossi and Ron Book.
Although months have passed since they received the cease-and-desist letters, the three daily fantasy sports operators continued offering games to Florida players.
In the document obtained by the Sun Sentinel, Joe Jacquot, a former general counsel for DeSantis who also worked for DraftKings and FanDuel, wrote:
“FanDuel, as a contest sponsor, merely puts up a purse, for which it does not compete. The companies that received cease and desist letters do the opposite – they participate in the contest and win the prize if the contestant does not correctly guess winning propositions.
Indeed, they say it does not matter under federal law that the contest involves the operator, but Florida law makes that very distinction.”
Seminole Tribe began accepting online sports bets in Florida
The disagreement over Florida fantasy sports comes relatively quickly after the Seminole Tribe announced plans to expand its gambling resume at its Florida casinos in December.
After nearly two years of challenging the legality of the gaming agreement, the Seminole Tribe made online sports betting available for Florida players with its Hard Rock Bet platform in early November.
The agreement specified that initial sports betting was limited to the Tribe’s facilities. The deal also gave the tribe “exclusivity” to offer sports betting, as well as online sports betting, throughout the state. In addition to sports betting, the contract allowed the Seminoles also to launch craps and roulette at all six Seminole Casinos.
In return, the Tribe will pay the state at least $2.5 billion over the first five years of the agreement, with increased pay in the coming years.