Complicated And Convoluted, Florida Sports Betting Action Presses On

Written By Brant James on February 2, 2022 - Last Updated on February 9, 2022

Sports betting in Florida was available online for almost a month — before a US District Court judge shut it down in early December. Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ruled that the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s compact with the state to offer sports betting, craps, and roulette didn’t stand up to legal precedent after challenges from competing gambling interests in the state.

Key Florida gambling developments since then:

  • Appeals followed from the Seminole Tribe.
  • National gambling interests DraftKings and FanDuel then began funding a Florida political action committee attempting to put a referendum on the 2022 ballot that would legalize sports betting statewide. DraftKings went so far as to offer free bets to potential Florida customers in exchange for support, and $1.5 million to a responsible gambling campaign.
  • Florida Voters in Charge, a group funded by the Las Vegas Sands Corp. began its own signature campaign trying to secure a ballot measure that would open casino gambling near Jacksonville. It appears to have failed, but the group filed a suit in Leon County Circuit Court this week seeking more time on the grounds that state election law is unfair.
  • Florida Voters in Charge and the Seminoles accused each other of voter fraud. FVIC dropped its lawsuit on Jan. 31. The PAC didn’t cite its reasons for seeking a dismissal, but its request came a day before the deadline to submit the 891,589 signatures needed for a ballot measure qualification.
  • The Department of the Interior informed the US District Court that it would appeal the decision to void the Seminoles’ compact.
  • Florida Education Champions, despite copious funding from DraftKings and FanDuel, conceded last week that it would not attain the signatures needed to place its referendum on the ballot.
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So now what?

The Seminole Tribe still holds a virtual monopoly on gambling in Florida and maintains its edge on sports betting. According to court documents, the Interior department has until Feb. 9 to deliver its statement of issues, which would precede the release of a timeline on how the case would proceed. Monterra, one of the appellants in the now-consolidated case, has until Feb. to file its statement of issues. This case appears to provide the only narrow bridge to legal sports betting in Florida for the near- and long-term.

Whether Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida crack back into the nullified compact and address the language that led to its downfall – the hub-and-spoke model with betting servers located on tribal land – remains to be seen. Certainly, the Seminoles figure to be interested in offering craps and roulette, which were stricken when the compact was voided. The defeat of the compact also prevents the Tribe from offering retail sports betting in Florida.

Hard Rock Digital, the Seminoles online gaming platform, has since busied itself be entering the Ariza sports betting market in a deal with the Navajo Nation.

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Brant James

Brant James is a veteran journalist who has twice been recognized in the Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, most recently in 2020. He's covered motorsports, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball among a myriad of others beats and written enterprise and sports business for publications including USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com.

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