Gambling in Florida has been legal in various forms since 1931, but what’s available continues to be as diverse as the state of more than 21 million.
Wagering in the state began with dog and horse racing, followed by jai alai, all in the 1930s. Whereas horse racing remains not only an important part of the economy, but to Florida gambling, jai alai is quickly fading into oblivion and voters chose to outlaw greyhound racing beginning in 2021, turning such storied venues as Derby Lane in St. Petersburg into card rooms. So-called racinos are located within race tracks across the state, also offer these gambling amenities.
Tribal casinos came to Florida in the late ’80s, offering table games and slot machines. There are currently seven such casinos – six operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and its Hard Rock brand – which comprise all of the standalone, non-racino venues. Some casino-style gambling is available on small day-cruise boats once out in international waters and Princess Cruises plans offers larger casinos and sports betting on the ocean liners. Poker is legal in card rooms.
Online gaming has not yet come to Florida, , but residents can take advantage of social gaming, however, where they can play the slots or poker for fun instead of money.
Sports betting in Florida remains a complicated non-reality. The Seminole Tribe of Florida believes it owns exclusive rights to offer it, if the state legislature passes a bill, but a 2018 limitation on the expansion of gambling in Florida approved by voters will make the process difficult.
In Florida, the options for social gaming are similar to other states. Zynga, Slotomania, Big Fish, and the rest of the usual suspects are available to Florida residents and visitors.
Residents are typically too far away to take advantage of the MyVegas comps options. However, there are three exceptions: Resorts World Bimini, Royal Caribbean, and the Orlando offerings from Gray Line Tours.
Bimini is the closest Bahamian island to Florida. It’s either a short boat or plane ride away from the eastern coast. Though RWB’s casino is smallish, with only a few hundred slot machines and a smattering of table games, the property is well-furnished, and the comps offered through MyVegas include discounts on rooms, food, and other activities.
Another MyVegas option that Floridians can truly use is the site’s partnership with Royal Caribbean cruises. Rewards offered through MyVegas include onboard credits and, most invitingly, actual cruise comps for interior staterooms on departures out of Fort Lauderdale. It’s conceivable that free or nearly-free five-day vacations are convenient for most Floridians. (At least those willing to put in the time to get 750,000 loyalty points.)
The final option is to get comps for the Gray Line Tour options out of Orlando. The rewards offered are mostly companion tickets or discounts, but there are MyVegas options for trips to Miami, Clearwater Beach, St. Augustine, and the Kennedy Center. So, at the very least, if you were planning to go sightseeing in Florida anyway, you might be able to ease the burden on your wallet and do it in style.
Since that time, there has been an ebb-and-flow to the public’s acceptance of gambling options and buildings. Ultimately, Florida has undoubtedly become a destination for more than just beaches and retirement facilities.
Florida first legalized slot machines and jai alai back in 1935. They quickly repealed the machines (but not the jai alai) two years later. Limited slots gaming was introduced in 1988 on tribal lands due to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. But it wasn’t until 2004, 67 years after their repeal, that voters revived slot gaming and approved slot machines’ introduction to the racetracks and jai alai facilities.
The path that led Florida to become such a gambling-friendly state hinges on one major fact. Florida has a preponderance of Native American tribal lands within its borders.
Florida’s interwoven relationship with several tribes – particularly the Seminole tribe – has allowed for the expansion of gaming in Florida. And, unlike other reservation lands, many tribal properties are near or inside major metropolitan areas in the state.
The Seminoles have operated some form of gambling in Florida since 1981, when they began offering bingo at their Tampa-area reservation (one of six reservations in the state). Today, the tribe owns and operates seven different casinos. These include two Seminole Hard Rock locations in Tampa and Hollywood.
In 2009, Governor Charlie Crist signed a bill into law that relaxed rules on much of gambling, particularly with regard to poker. Those seven Seminole casinos, one Miccosukee-run facility, and several casino cruise boats offer slot gamblers more than 25,000 machines and over 750 table games upon which to play.
Additionally, players can find over 800 Florida poker tables in cardrooms and racinos throughout the state. Below is a listing of the properties.
|Property||Location||Number of Slot Machines|
|Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa||Tampa||4,000|
|Seminole Coconut Creek Casino||Coconut Creek||2,000|
|Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood||Hollywood||2,000|
|Miccosukee Resort and Gaming Center||Miami||1,700|
|Seminole Casino Immokalee||Immokalee||1,300|
|Seminole Classic Casino||Hollywood||850|
|Seminole Casino – Brighton||Okeechobee||450|
As of right now, Florida has no laws either for or against online gambling but has no regulated sites of its own to offer.
However, since the legislature has a budget shortfall and what seems to be a favorable opinion about gambling within the state, it would be no major surprise if Florida iGaming became a legal reality.
With so many land-based options and no major public backlash to be seen, Florida is definitely on the upswing with its gambling. So, those who prefer online games are likely to find options fairly soon.
With the Seminole tribe dominating so much of Florida’s gaming scene, it’s important to remember the other group that has a stake. The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida operates the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming Center. This is located on the corner of Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail in the far western portion of Miami.
It’s a 56,000-square-foot facility offering over 1,700 slot machines, poker, and bingo. They also have a 1,200-seat entertainment venue and three restaurant options.
The center is on 25 acres of Miccosukee reservation land. However, the Miccosukees (like their Seminole counterparts in Florida) have more than one discontiguous piece of reservation land throughout the state. In fact, the primary area is within the Everglades, where the tribe has resided for over 100 years. In fact, the Miccosukees are descended from a group of Creeks who eluded capture in the wetlands area.
Today, more than 600 tribal members live in the area. They are direct descendants of that group of Creeks, who spoke Mikasuki – hence the new tribal name. The tribe is federally recognized by the United States government and maintains roughly 75,000 acres of reservation land in total (plus a perpetual lease for another 189,000 acres).
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Land-based Gambling||Yes||Restricted to tribal lands and cruises|
|Online Gambling||No||Expected to be offered soon – favorable legislative environment|
|Lottery||Yes||State lottery, Mega Millions and Powerball offered|
|Charitable or House-based Gambling||Yes||Bingo only|
|Minimum Gambling Age||21 for casino gambling, both online and live; 18 for horseracing|