Florida Sports Betting

Legal online sports betting and mobile apps in the Sunshine State
Written by
fact-check-iconFact checked by

Florida has long been one of the most anticipated future additions to the legal sports betting map as the pastime spreads across the United States. And now, the first online sportsbook launched in the state on Nov. 1. The Seminole Tribe of Florida introduced its Hard Rock Sportsbook app statewide.

With 21 million potential current or future customers living there and scores of tourists or seasonal residents, Florida online sports betting is gearing up to be a major player in the US market.

Three NFL teams, two NHL teams, two MLB teams, an NBA team and rabidly followed big-time college programs also make Florida sports betting an exciting proposition. So do all the Super Bowls and national championship games that bring fans who want to bet on sports in Florida.

Latest Updates

UPDATED: Jan. 26, 2022

United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland notified the US District Court for the District of Columbia that she would appeal a November court decision nullifying the Seminole Tribe’s 2021 gambling compact with the state. In striking down the deal, the court ended sports betting – both mobile and retail – in the state after a month of operation.

Haaland would have to persuade the appeals court that the compact did not violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Two courts ruled that it did because it allowed the Seminoles’ Hard Rock Digital to offer state mobile betting on servers housed on tribal land. This is unprecedented in tribal-state history.

Is sports betting legal in Florida?

Not technically. The Friedrich ruling threw gambling in Florida back under the auspices of the previous compact, which did not include sports betting. However, the Seminoles are appealing that ruling. Sports betting had begun on Nov. 1, 2021, Hard Rock Sportsbook launched online in the state. Lawsuits are still working their way through the courts, with a US District Court judge invalidating the 30-year tribal compact.

In April 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a sweeping new 30-year compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that set the framework of a sports betting economy in the state. The proposal was discussed in a special session of the State Legislature in May, where it was approved. There was a lot to answer, including if the plan to house the mobile servers for state-wide betting on tribal land will pass federal scrutiny under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. The DOI said yes (of a sort).

Key details of the invalidated Florida sports betting compact

  • Seminole Tribe can offer statewide online sports betting in partnership with pari-mutuel facilities.
  • Seminole Tribe will be granted the right offer craps and roulette.
  • Pari-mutuels would be allowed to keep offering banked card games.
  • Florida gets a $2.5 billion revenue-sharing guarantee for the first five years, $6 billion in new revenues for Florida through 2030.

The Seminoles currently enjoy a near-monopoly on Florida casino gaming and in 2019 ceased making $350 million yearly revenue sharing payments in a dispute over that monopoly.

Legal online sportsbooks in Florida

The introduction of state-regulated sports betting has shaken up the corporate landscape of sports betting companies not just in the US, but globally. The last few years have provided a constant flow of mergers and acquisitions as companies scale up and combine to take advantage of the new market. Nevertheless, we can already see some of the big brands emerging as market leaders in the states where sports betting is legal.

Whether they get to enter the Florida market is a different matter. Florida, Texas, New York, and California are the most coveted untapped sports betting markets in the US, and so far none of them have online sports betting. The vast majority of sports betting revenues come from online wagers — in some states it’s as much as 90% or more — so this part of the market is critical to the industry.

Without these four states, more than 100 million Americans don’t have access to legal sports betting in their home state. Assuming that the Florida Lottery launches sports betting — it would in recent bills — it will need to partner with one or more international sports betting platforms to provide the technology necessary. If the lottery licenses other state gambling regulators to provide sports betting, there is more scope for other brand names to enter the market.

Then there is the Seminole Tribe, again. It could do what some other major casino operators like Penn National have done, and partner with several technology providers. On the other hand, it could just go with one major brand. It has partnered with bet365 and William Hill Sportsbook — now the Caesars Sportsbook — in the past.

The Seminoles own Hard Rock International and offer online sports betting in New Jersey, Iowa, and Nevada (in conjunction with Caesars Sportsbook, formally William Hill) through that brand. It has had a technology platform partnership with bet365 since 2018. If the tribe was given exclusivity on online sports betting in Florida — which was a negotiating chip in 2020 — that brand could be expected to be front and center, or even exclusive. Or it could license out market access or “skins” as laid out by whatever law was agreed upon by all the parties. Competition would be better for the market.

It should be noted that the newly created Hard Rock Digital is filled with former executives of the Stars Group and set to focus on sports betting and online casinos.

The big brands looking to enter the market if they are allowed to do so include:

  • 888
  • Bet365
  • BetMGM
  • BetRivers
  • Caesars
  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel
  • FOX Bet
  • PointsBet

Why Florida needs legal sports betting

From a purely commercial standpoint, Florida could set itself up as a Las Vegas-meets-New Jersey type of sports betting economy. Tourists rush to the state every year for multitudes of different entertainment options. But it stands to reason that if the state legalized the type of full mobile and online sports betting that represents the future of the business and entertainment experience, tourists could place bets at Spring Training games, waiting in line for a Disney roller coaster or wading in the surf.

They would place bets while in town to watch their team play in a Super Bowl or championship game. They could place bets while living in Florida in the winter, before they go home in the summer, leaving all those tax dollars for Florida’s educational system.

Also, no nearby state has legal sports betting yet. Not Georgia. Not Alabama. Mississippi has legal sports betting, in person at a casino sportsbook only, but that’s hundreds of miles away. The nearest legal option is the Bahamas. The debate over legalizing sports betting in Florida has largely moved past the arguments of those who are pro- and anti-gambling. It is now clear that the best option for providing protection to the public is a legal sports betting offer that is well regulated with controlled advertising.

Research estimates that the US sports betting market takes upward of $150 billion in bets each year. The revenue from these bets has flowed to offshore illegal betting sites and to criminal bookies for years.

Americans want to bet on sports, and they do bet on sports even if the law won’t allow US businesses to offer them the chance to do so. And in most states that’s the case. Online sports betting is normally illegal for the operator, but not illegal for the bettor. No sports bettor has ever been prosecuted for placing online bets at an offshore site.

Legalizing sports betting provided a channel to recover the revenues currently flowing offshore, and it provides a safe space where sports bettors can pursue their hobby legally.

Regulation provides real measures to reduce problem gambling, and sports betting operators in the legal sector are obliged to monitor their customers for signs of incipient problem gambling.

Even the tone of any communication made between sports bettor and operator is evidence of potential problems. When identified early, there is scope for intervention, and those gamblers who are at risk can be referred to the right providers of support services. From a consumer perspective, legal sports betting offers customers legal redress against any operator in case of a dispute, protection of their funds from misuse and the support of a regulator that puts a high priority on their interests.

Revenues from sports betting are generally targeted for education in Florida as they are in many other states like Tennessee. Even though legislators wrote the $350 million annual revenue share payments out of the Florida budget when the Tribe stopped paying them in 2019, the state faced a $3 billion shortfall from 2020-22.

Who will regulate sports betting in Florida?

Adults can play poker in Florida at 18, but all the sports betting bills introduced would put the age limit at 21 and older, which is in line with the vast majority of other states.

Currently, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering regulates:

  • Horse racing
  • Harness horse racing
  • Jai alai games
  • Cardroom poker games

In addition, Broward and Miami-Dade counties authorize slot machine gaming at pari-mutuel facilities. Tribal gaming is regulated separately from the state through a contract with the government that is called a Compact. Each year the state Department of the Lottery sets out a regulatory plan for the lottery’s activities.

It seems clear that a new regulator is required for sports betting. Under the bills that have been brought before the State Senate, the regulator would be part of the Department of the Lottery, and the lottery would be the final authority for the issue of licenses.

Regulating online sports betting is a major change from anything Florida gaming regulators have undertaken. The lottery will have to recruit new staff skilled in the problems of online gambling and sports betting in particular.

What would retail sportsbooks in Florida look like?

There are no retail sportsbooks in Florida yet. Whereas horse bettors can walk into parimutuel betting parlors and plunk down bets on horses, sports bettors have no such recourse in the state. That said, Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa has built a poolside restaurant and added televisions to make it a sportsbook. The so-called “Guitar Hotel” Hard Rock property in Hollywood has not yet opened what will be a sportsbook.

If sports betting in Florida developed like most of the states that legalized and launched since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, the six Seminole casinos around the state — and anyone else allowed to do so in the new law — would retrofit bar space into sportsbooks.

They would very much resemble massive sports bars with walls of televisions, betting windows with live tellers accepting wagers, and loungers for hours of game-viewing comfort. Las Vegas casinos have taken these opulent spaces to new levels and made them destinations as a means to offset the encroachment of online play.

If Florida follows the pattern of most states, live sports betting should be available before online sports betting is offered. On the other hand, putting the lottery in charge could mean that online sports betting makes it to the market first — there is precedent for that in other states where the lottery controls sports betting.

Either way, sports betting at a casino or other physical location is not entirely dissimilar to sports betting online. The reality of the industry is that sports betting is now a highly technological endeavor, so the platform used for live and online sports betting is almost the same. In a casino, the first thing to do is register with the house VIP player scheme. This will give you discounts on casino services such as hotel rooms and meals. Every dollar you spend betting will help qualify you for more casino rewards, so the short time necessary for filling out a form is well worth the effort.

After that, head to the dedicated sports betting area. In other states, casinos have spent a fortune updating their facilities to ensure that sports bettors have a quality experience. Trendy bars and banks of huge widescreen monitors enable sports betting in style, with current games broadcast and different bet options clearly displayed for patrons.

Once you have decided what bet to make, a quick trip to the teller is all that it takes to hand over your money and receive a betting slip in return. That’s the legal record of your bet, so don’t lose it!

How online sports betting works in other states

There is no cut-and-paste model for sports betting rules just as there is none for how states tax, police, or fund education. New Jersey became the shining example of how a sports betting economy could be set up, with its roaring popularity, financial success and record-breaking amounts wagered. Its early adoption of an online market proved experts were right in asserting that bettors wanted to play anywhere.

But its rule didn’t work for every state. New Jersey had an existing gambling infrastructure to build sports betting upon while Tennessee had nothing but a lottery. Legislators found no appetite for retail sportsbooks in a place that never opted for casinos. Florida has a gambling background with tribal casinos and horse racing.

It doesn’t have mobile and online sports betting, but its success and popularity elsewhere make it a must. In places like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, more than 90% of wagers are placed on phones or computers, creating a steady flow of revenue for state coffers.

Neighboring New York, meanwhile, continues to try to implement mobile betting — it only has retail in a handful of casinos away from New York City — to keep bettors from day-tripping to New Jersey to bet on sports or do so with illegal offshore markets.

Tennessee, which doesn’t even license casinos, set up a mobile-only sports betting market that launched in 2020 and has had its share of problems amidst a stream of successes. It can be done. And given the size of the state of Florida and its dispersed population, mobile betting is the only feasible way to make it not only available but something new customers and tourists would want to play.

How sports betting apps work

Setting up an online sports betting account is simple. It’s no surprise that sports betting operators want to make it as easy as possible for new customers to get into the action. You will have to wait and see which operators get the go-ahead in Florida and register with the ones of your choice.

There is a simple online form to fill in. You will need to provide your first name and last name, details of any promo code (check PlayUSA for the latest codes) and your email address.

State regulators and the banking laws mandate that you provide proof of your age, identity and address before you can bet on sports for real money, so you will need to provide this information either at sign-up or as part of an account verification process.

Introductory offers are valuable

Once you have your account established, you can take advantage of any special bonus offers for new customers.

These are very valuable. Online sports betting operators spend a lot of money to get new customers, estimating that the lifetime value of a happy customer is worth a sizable up-front investment.

If you see new player offers with bonuses of up to $1,000 or more, don’t be surprised. There are terms and conditions attached that you should check out, but the offers are real — at least they are in the legal industry.

Beware of any offshore gambling site accounts; your money is not safe, and offers are not subject to the advertising standards in place in the US.

One offer to look out for is no-deposit free bets. Some sites offer to give you a couple of low-stake free bets before you have even made a deposit. These offer a great way to try out a site in a crowded market.

Will geolocation be required from Florida sports betting apps?

Yes. This is standard throughout the industry to make sure that bettors are actually in locations that allow sports betting. The software that ensures this comes embedded in the sports betting apps you download to your phone or computer. Users’ location will be verified every time they log in.

How payment options should work in Florida

A few states have included a minimum set of payment methods that sports betting operators must use in their legislation. There really is no need to legislate at this level of detail because the operators will offer as many methods of depositing as their customers need. It’s in their own interest to offer deposit methods that suit their customers.

Payment processors are also licensed by the state, providing another layer of accountability and security over illegal offshore sportsbooks.

The most common deposit methods in other states are:

  • Cash — There are usually two ways used to fund your account with cash: either by visiting the cashier at the casino with which the online operator is partnered, or by using a deposit service such as PayNearMe, which is offered at most 7-Eleven stores.
  • Credit/debit cards — Mastercard and Visa are most commonly offered, although some sports betting sites also accept Discover cards. Note that some banks such as Capital One, Bank of America, Santander and JPMorgan Chase do not allow their cards to be used for gambling transactions.
  • Payment processors — PayPal, Skrill and NETELLER are three commonly used payment methods. These online accounts can be funded by credit/debit cards and allow almost instant deposits to sports betting sites.
  • Bank transfers — Using a direct bank wire transfer is useful if you are making large bets and want to move large sums of money.
  • ACH e-checks — A cheap and easy alternative is to use e-checks. The online sports betting site cashier will explain what information you need to copy from your bank checkbook to make a payment this way.
  • Branded prepaid cards — All the major operators offer their own prepaid cards on the Mastercard, Visa or Discover networks. These can be funded by credit or debit cards and can be used in shops or to withdraw cash just like your debit card.

Not all deposit methods can be used to make withdrawals. For example, you can’t withdraw to PayPal unless you have made a deposit using PayPal first. You can’t use PayNearMe for withdrawals, and sometimes you cannot withdraw back to your credit or debit card.

In the absence of a card-based withdrawal method, you can always withdraw directly back to your bank account using an e-check.

Withdrawals are extremely quick when you use a legal sports betting operator. Should you have experience at trying to withdraw money from an illegal offshore site, you will know that the process can be complex and take many weeks.

Fast and simple financial transactions are one of the major benefits offered by the legal sports betting sector. Plus you know your money is safe and you have legal redress in case anything goes wrong.

Which markets are Florida sports bettors most likely to see?

States have conformed which sports and events are bettable by the appetite of their citizens and politicians. Often college sports or “special” markets like the Oscars or other awards shows are forbidden to allay fears that the college athletes or awards voters could be compromised.

In New Jersey, for example, bettors cannot make wagers on in-state college teams like Seton Hall or Rutgers or on college events taking place within state borders because of a provision in the state constitution. New Jersey isn’t alone.

States that disallow betting on in-state college teams:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana (prop bets disallowed only)
  • Iowa (prop bets disallowed only)
  • Michigan (prop bets disallowed only)
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Illinois
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington

That said, expect Florida to follow Michigan and North Carolina’s lead as a state with an ingrained, in-state college sports culture that allows wagering on in-state schools. Certainly, protecting young athletes is paramount, but sports betting in Michigan and North Carolina would be hamstrung without the opportunity to play Michigan and Michigan State football and Duke and North Carolina basketball, respectively.

In Florida, the market would be hammered without Florida and Florida State on the menu. All the most popular US sports will be available, plus a whole string of sports and betting events that draw smaller audiences. The limitations on what sports can be offered and what competitions can be covered are based on the availability of reliable data.

The new entrants to the US sports betting market are online companies from Europe. These businesses have over 20 years of experience with online sports betting globally. As a result, they have established excellent data sources and are able to offer a huge variety of sports betting options.

The typical list of sports offered by operators includes:

  • Aussie rules football
  • Auto racing
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Cricket
  • Cycling
  • Darts
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • MMA
  • Rugby union
  • Soccer
  • Tennis

Esports could be authorized full-time or just for special events. They are growing in popularity, and some jurisdictions such as Nevada are creating regulations to allow bets on the most popular events.

High school sports or any sports where there is a majority participation by minors are forbidden.

What are the most common types of bets?

One of the things you will notice if you are new to modern sports betting is how technology makes complex bets easy. The online apps and the in-casino sports betting platforms offer bet combinations that would take your local bookie hours to calculate using pen and paper.

Bets can be divided into those that are on single events and those where several bets are linked together.

Some of the most popular bet types likely to be offered in Florida will be:

  • Moneyline bets — The simplest form of bet based on which team or player will win a specified game or match.
  • Futures bets — If you want to bet on which team will win the Super Bowl before the NFL season has started, you would make the bet as a futures bet. These are bets where the outcome is a long way off, so the odds are higher because of the increased uncertainty.
  • Totals bets — Also known as over/under bets because here the winner of the game is irrelevant. What matters is the total score of both teams combined. The operator sets an expected total score, and you bet on whether the actual score will be over or under that number.
  • Point spread bets — These bets don’t rely only on which team wins or loses, but on the amount by which a team wins or loses. You win the bet if your team wins or loses by more or less than what the sports betting operator has calculated. This is known as “beating the spread.”

Betting that combines several bets

  • Parlay bets — In a parlay bet you tie several bets together. You have to get every bet correct to win, so the odds are the odds of winning each bet multiplied together. That means you get the chance to win potentially huge amounts of money from a small initial stake — of course it’s not easy to win a parlay bet, but they are a lot of fun.
  • Teasers — Teaser bets are just partial parlay bets where the legs of the parlay are either totals bets or spread bets. The tease element of the bet is because bettors can change the totals or spreads to improve their odds of winning. Of course, this reduces the potential payouts, but you can still make a big score from a smaller stake.
  • Round robins — If parlay bets aren’t exciting enough, you can tie multiple parlay bets together in a round robin bet. You don’t have to win every parlay to win. Each parlay is treated independently, then at the end, you net the winning parlays against the losing parlays to find your total payout. Fortunately, the software does all the math, so you can adjust your round robin to get the risk level and potential winnings you are looking for.

How live betting works in a regulated market

All the states that have legalized sports betting so far have allowed in-play bets. These are bets that are placed after a game has started. In New Jersey, in-play bets now account for almost 60% of all money wagered.

The casinos and online sites offer a list of in-play bets for each of the games they cover. The more popular sports offer more in-play betting opportunities, but almost all sports now offer some form of in-play betting.

A lot of in-play bets are of the prop bet variety. These bets are on events such as which player will score the next touchdown, or which team will score first in the second quarter of an NBA game.

However, they also include the standard money line bets on which team will win, so you can get the opportunity to change your mind as the game progresses.

Are the odds competitive in a legal sports betting market?

The tax and fees proposed in State Sen. Jeff Brandes’ bills have been sensible, typically a $100,000 license fee and a 15% tax on sports betting revenues. Those figures could of course be tweaked in negotiations.

Those numbers hit the sweet spot where operators can afford to keep their prices low and their odds competitive. In states such as Pennsylvania, the sports betting tax is 36%, and there is a $10 million license fee. Even so, the odds are competitive since any weakness in pricing would motivate their customers to head for cheaper illegal offshore sites.

Of course, the final numbers will be subject to legislative debate, but so long as Florida does not stray too far from the prices of other states, odds should remain competitive and there should still be money available for attractive marketing promotions.

Florida sports betting history

A bipartisan bill filed just before the 2021 session sought to include all the stakeholders including the Seminoles and pari-mutuels to bring legal sports betting to Florida.

The status of daily fantasy sports in Florida is nebulous even though national operators continue to play their trade there.

In 1991, the state Attorney General argued that it was illegal, but Florida has not followed up with law. The three new sports betting laws put forth by Brandes – Florida law requires bills to address only one law even if they pertain to the same matter – do not clarify DFS in the state.

in July of 2021, the Department of the Interior deferred making a judgment on whether a 30-year gambling compact signed into law in May was legally justifiable or not, allowing it to pass into law. While lawsuits are certain to follow, the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida plans to launch sports betting in Florida on Oct. 15

The Florida Legislature ratified the compact – which also allowed the Tribe to offer craps and roulette at its six Florida casinos – in a Special Session.

The Senate approved the deal, 38-1, on May 18 and the House followed with a 97-17 rubber-stamp even after Rep. Randy Fine, one of the chief negotiators with the Tribe, admitted on the floor that he didn’t believe the sports betting portion of the deal would survive legal scrutiny. That will soon be tested, even after the Department of the Interior opted to not make a ruling. The DOI has final say on all tribal deals and can approve, disallow or allow them to pass into law through deference.

The DOI had plenty to say in its non-decision, though, particularly asserting that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act should be interpreted broadly in an age of expanding tech. This crucial opinion would allow the Seminoles to offer state-wide mobile sports bets even though IGRA has in the past determined that bets it offers must occur on tribal lands. The Internet “hub and spoke” servers taking the bets being on tribal lands would be sufficient under this ruling. This aspect is certain to be a focal point of any future lawsuits from parties hoping to break the Seminoles’ expanding virtual monopoly on gambling in the state.

The Tribe would continue to rule gaming nearly exclusively but race tracks would be allowed to continue offering disputed “banked” card games the Seminoles claim as their right through the compact. The Tribe must make $500 million yearly revenue-share payments to the state for its gains, which include the right to explore casino expansion. They would also get the right to add craps and roulette, a long-term desire for full Vegas casino wagering.

The new compact has caused grumbling from long-time gambling advocates in Florida as too one-sided toward the Seminoles and lacking in competition for consumers.

After nearly three weeks of mobile sports betting in the state, a federal judge ordered it halted and the new compact nullified as a violation of federal law. The Seminoles immediately appealed. The Tribe stopped taking bets on Dec. 4 after failing to win a stay of an order to cease.

Brant James Avatar
Written by
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.

View all posts by Brant James
Privacy Policy