Florida Online Sports Betting

Florida might be the most interesting state in the union, and is definitely the most populous state with legal sports betting. From the pine forests in the north (really!), to the iconic Florida Keys in the south, and Disney World in-between, Florida has everything. Well, almost everything… cold weather and an income tax remain elusive.

As a large state with a less is more approach to regulation, gambling options are limited in Florida. Sure, there are some casinos and the horse racing industry in the state has a long history, but there are many states with a larger gambling footprint than Florida. That changed somewhat in November 2021 when legal sports betting surprisingly went live in the state (though not with out complications).

Read on for more about how sports betting emerged as a big winner in the recent legislative session, why the Seminole tribe held all the cards and is the actual big winner, and why Hard Rock may end up being the literal and figurative only game in town. We’ll also talk about which games and banking options will be available, and why all this enthusiasm may be for naught if the state loses a legal challenge from online sports betting companies left out of the competition.

Legal Florida Sports Betting – How We Got Here

After extensive debate in the legislature, Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation on April 23, 2021, that was the first step toward legalizing sports betting in Florida. Specifically, he negotiated and signed a compact with the Seminole tribe that allows the tribe to control sports betting in the state. Additionally, the tribe is allowed to offer roulette and craps at their casinos and will be able to build three additional casinos on existing tribal land. In exchange, the state will receive at least $500 million per year from the tribe over the first five years. To understate the obvious, this is a huge deal for the state of Florida.

Florida Sports Betting In Jeopardy

Most of the reporting on the path to sports betting legalization in Florida could be summed up with the phrase: “it was true at the time.” Articles recapping the dizzying pace of legalization often contained that phrase because things changed so quickly. It was true at the time that legalization had almost no chance of becoming a reality in 2021. It was also true at the time that the tribes were opposed to a casino potentially opening up at the famed Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach. It was true at the time that online sports betting was highly unlikely to be available before 2022. It did, they aren’t anymore, and it’s here to stay… or is it? It was also true at the time that sports betting was legal in Florida when Hard Rock, in conjunction with the Seminole Tribe, launched the mobile industry on November 1st, 2021. However, a surprise ruling later in the month blew it all up, and the sportsbook went dark just five weeks later on December 4. We’ll break it down for you below.

Current Status of Florida Sports Betting

Florida’s online sports betting industry is currently very cloudy. November ’21 had more twists and turns than a roller coaster at Universal Studios. Let’s recap:

  • November 1st – To the surprise of many, Hard Rock online sportsbook opens for business. Run by the Seminole Tribe, Hard Rock was taking bets from users across the state of Florida.
  • November 22nd – A federal judge rules against the compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe, essentially ending legal sports betting in the state. Without the compact, sports betting can’t continue.
  • November 23rd – The Seminole Tribe launches an appeal.
  • November 24th – Judge Dabney Friedrich, the same judge who ruled against the compact initially, denies the Tribe’s appeal.
  • December 4th – Hard Rock Sportsbook shuts down, no longer accepting bets and refunding all pending wagers.
  • We’re not done yet, though. The case was then shipped off to the U.S. Circuit of Appeals where a three-judge panel will decide its fate. We will learn more about the future of Florida sports betting with each passing day.

Seminoles Hold The Cards

While it may seem like the Seminoles are the only game in town, there are several other casinos in the state. Florida has a legendary horse racing history, with four tracks still hosting races, mostly in the winter and spring. Calder, Hialeah, and Gulfstream evoke images of swaying palm trees and immaculate racetracks, but, like many “racinos,” they now turn a profit by operating large casinos. Calder and Hialeah don’t even have live racing anymore. The racinos are keen to get into the sports betting game.

The good news is that under the new compact existing casinos in the state, which would include the racetracks and a handful of other facilities aside from the Seminole properties, are eligible to have their own mobile sports betting brands. However, in an unprecedented move, all mobile sports betting will be administered, managed, and processed by the Seminole tribe using computer servers located on tribal property. The other operators can negotiate their own agreements with national brands like DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars Sportsbook, but the Seminoles would be in charge of everything on the back end and take a 40% cut of all revenues for their services.

So far, a few companies have negotiated with the Seminoles to get in on the Florida sports betting game, but none have gone live in the state yet. They are likely waiting to see how the pending court cases shake out, and/or are waiting for the result of a possible citizen referendum to overturn the current exclusive Seminole sports betting monopoly.

It All Comes Down To Money

In the end, the compact legalizing sports betting in the state came about because of money, or a lack thereof. Florida, like most states, had its revenues decline sharply as COVID restrictions shut down the state’s economy. In 2021, as the state was beginning to ease COVID restrictions, budget writers in the legislature faced a staggering $2.75 billion deficit. Unlike the federal government, states cannot run deficits, so the money had to be found somewhere. The governor’s budget proposal submitted to the legislature included $350-750 million per year in revenues from a new “Seminole Gaming Compact.” This money would be derived from additional payments from the tribe to the state as part of their ability to offer sports betting and expanded casino games.

The legislature passed the enabling legislation required for the compact to be approved during a special session in May 2021, sending the compact to the Department of Interior for final approval. The Department of Interior let the compact become effective without formally approving it, so the compact was approved without action in the Summer of 2021.

What’s Next For Florida Sports Betting?

The new compact between the state and the Seminole tribe has been signed and enabling legislation was approved by the legislature. The compact became effective in summer of 2021, allowing the Seminoles to offer retail sports betting at their casino and mobile betting statewide. Let’s go over what that means and the current status of sports betting in the state.

Federal Approval

The federal Department of Interior must approve all new compacts between states and tribal governments. This includes updated compacts, such as the one negotiated by Governor DeSantis and the Seminole tribe. The role of the Department of Interior is to ensure the compact complies with federal law, specifically the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Federal approval is granted most of the time, but this particular compact included some questionable sections that many observers believed would not be approved by the Feds. In the end, the Department of Interior did not act on the compact within the 45-day window, which means it became law without formal approval. This sometimes happens when a federal agency does not fully support an issue but doesn’t want to formally oppose it either.

Federal law is clear that tribes are allowed to offer gaming on their own land, which would include sports betting because it is not prohibited by federal or Florida law. Sports betting is not legal in Florida at this time either, so the tribe’s authority to offer mobile betting throughout the state is murky at best. The state and the tribe both insist that the Seminoles had the right to offer sports betting statewide.

In a surprise move, the Seminole tribe opened its Hard Rock mobile app on November 1, 2021, much sooner than expected. This could have been in response to the two pending lawsuits challenging the legality of the Seminoles authority to offer mobile betting off tribal lands.

Overcoming Expected Legal Challenges

Not everyone loves the idea of legalized sports betting in Florida. Since gambling is entertainment, and with the competition for entertainment dollars being extremely stiff in Florida, those who own other entertainment companies want to limit gambling in the state. There are two active lawsuits pending in federal court challenging the legality of the Seminole compact. The lawsuits were filed by Florida businessmen with casino interests who do not believe the Seminoles are legally entitled to a monopoly on online sports betting.

The merits of their cases rest on whether the compact violates the recently approved constitutional amendment requiring a public vote on all new local casino gaming expansion. This challenge will hinge on whether the courts define sports betting as a “casino game.” Most observers believe the cases have little chance of succeeding because the federal government and state already approved the compact.

A separate challenge to the Seminoles’ exclusive right to online sports betting in the state may also be forthcoming. Sports betting operators, including DraftKings and FanDuel, are expected to bankroll and support a ballot referendum that would open up online wagering to additional operators and not require that all transactions be processed on Seminole computer servers. This would create an open, competitive market in which the Seminoles would be one of many online sportsbook brands competing for customers in the state. The referendum is still in the signature-gathering process and, if deemed eligible for the ballot, will be voted on by Floridians sometime in 2022.

What Sports Betting May Look Like In FL

Online sports betting was live in Florida for five weeks, but is currently live today. The timing was a huge surprise, coming with literally no advance warning or publicity. On the morning of November 1, 2021 the Hard Rock app just worked. The Seminoles likely timed their online activation with the status of the pending lawsuits, but whatever the reason, they were the only mobile game in town. Once the judicial process plays out, or even before, we expect the Hard Rock Sportsbook to go live in the state and begin accepting bets once again.

Online Or Retail Only?

This is the question Florida industry observers will be asking as the legalization process shakes out. Frankly, it’s the only question that really matters when discussing the financial aspects of legal FL sports betting. States with online betting generate over 80 percent of their total sports betting revenue from online wagers, as to opposed to in-person retail betting. States such as Mississippi and New Mexico, in which sports betting is legal but limited to a few retail casinos, are barely a blip on the industry radar. All the money and attention is fixated on mobile betting.

Under the compact, the Seminoles are authorized to offer mobile betting throughout the state. This is a large point of contention, but let’s assume that the approved compact withstands court challenges. As we mentioned earlier, other casinos and pari-mutuel operators in the state will be able to have a mobile skin as well, but all operations will be managed by the Seminoles using servers on tribal land. The Seminoles will keep a 40% cut of all revenue as an administration fee.

As of now, other sportsbooks waiting to see how things shake out before deciding whether to partner with the Seminoles, but if the legal process concludes without any significant changes to the existing structure, we expect the other sportsbooks to get on board and end up going live in the state at some point in the future.

Florida Online Sportsbooks

Large sports betting companies will likely be invited to partner with existing operators in the state. If that happens we should see some major brands in Florida at some point down the line. These operators will likely include:

SportsbookCasino/Tribal PartnerCity
Hard RockSeminole TribeMultiple
TBDMiccosukee TribeMiami
Twin SpiresCalder CasinoMiami Gardens
William HillCasino MiamiMiami
CaesarsIsle Casino Pompano ParkPompano Beach
DraftKingsTBDTBD
FanDuelTBDTBD
Barstool SportsbookTBDTBD
BetRiversTBDTBD
FOXBetTBDTBD
theScore BetTBDTBD
UnibetTBDTBD

Hard Rock Sportsbook

This is a given. The app was live in Florida and will be a market leader in the state no matter what happens in the future. The Seminole tribe actually owns the Hard Rock brand and uses the name at two of its six large casino resorts. Hard Rock Sportsbook is live online in New Jersey and Iowa and has a retail presence in Indiana, Mississippi, and South Dakota.

TwinSpires Sportsbook

Churchill Downs Inc. owns Calder Casino, a former racetrack and current casino in the Miami area. CDI also owns the TwinSpires sportsbook brand, which operates in a few states, including Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Twin Spires will likely be available to bettors if an agreement can be reached between Calder Casino and the Seminole tribe.

Caesars Sportsbook

Caesars acquired William Hill in 2020, combining two mammoth casino/sports betting brands into one even larger company. The gaming company owns many casinos throughout the country, including the Isle Casino Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, Florida. We expect Caesars Sportsbook to make a big push to join the sports betting party in Florida.

More Potential Florida Online Bookmakers

Other companies potentially looking for a path to Florida’s sports betting market include:

Available Bets in Florida

If we assume that at least some of the above operators will be in Florida, we know that there will be many different betting options available. Every state with legal sports betting, including the likes of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia, offers the major American and European sports like basketball, baseball, football, hockey and soccer. Colorado is one state where almost every sport under the sun is available for betting. Cornhole? Yup. Water Polo? Indeed. Sailing? Added to the list in February 2021.

Florida will likely be more constrained in its betting options, but expect to see at least a few of the more obscure sports being available for betting due to the global influx of visitors to the state and the many Hispanic and international residents in south Florida. Sports available to bet on will include, but may not be limited to, the following:

Betting Markets

A betting market is a type of bet offered by a sportsbook operator. The sportsbook offers betting options the way a market offers different goods to buy. People “buy” wagering opportunities from the sportsbook “market.” A sportsbook offering the Lakers -3.5 in a game against the Celtics is one market. The bettor decides whether to “buy” the wager. These days there are more available markets than ever. High-profile events like the Super Bowl have hundreds of markets, while even the most low-profile weeknight baseball game has dozens of betting opportunities. If you see the term “markets” when reading about sports betting, just remember that market = type of bet. Here are the most common markets that will likely be available to bettors in Florida:

  • Spread
  • Moneyline
  • Over/Under
  • Futures
  • Prop bets
  • In-game/live betting
  • Parlay
  • Teaser
  • Round Robin

FL Banking Options

Again, we don’t know exactly what will end up happening with sports betting in Florida long term. However, we can surmise which banking options bettors will have for their deposits and withdrawals. Below are a few of the banking options available to bettors in most states. Remember to check with your financial institution before making your first deposit, whether in Florida or another state.

PayPal

Almost every sportsbook offers PayPal as a payment option. It is the most popular peer-to-peer payment system in America for a reason. Using PayPal allows you to easily transfer deposits to your favorite sportsbook and just as easily request a withdrawal.

PayNearMe

This option is very popular and available with many sportsbooks. It allows you to make a cash deposit at a participating local store, like 7-Eleven or CVS. The deposit immediately appears in your sportsbook account. No checking account, no fuss.

eCheck/ACH

The same option you have for paying your utility bills online is available at many sportsbooks. This is another easy way to quickly make deposits to your account.

Debit/Credit cards

Use your debit or credit card to fund your account by using the sportsbook’s payment function.

Cash At Casino Cage

This will most likely be an option available to bettors in Florida. If you’re at one of the Seminole casinos or a racino, you can go to the casino cage and make a cash deposit or withdrawal from your online account.

Florida Sports Betting FAQ

Is online sports betting available in Florida?

Not right now. Mobile sports betting went live in Florida on November 1, 2021. The Seminole tribe quietly launched its Hard Rock Sportsbook app on that date but shut it down five weeks later on December 4 as the legal process continues to play out. As of now, there are no online wagering options available to bettors in the state.

Which sports can I wager on in Florida?

All the major sports will be available for wagering, including football, basketball, soccer, hockey, and baseball. Most likely, other, lesser-known sports will also be available, including cricket, Australian Rules Football, and rugby. Because of Florida’s Latino population, sportsbooks will pay particular attention to sports popular in Latin America, such as soccer and…soccer.

Can I claim a Florida sports betting bonus?

Once live, Florida online sportsbooks will offer plenty of promotions. These promotions will include welcome bonuses like risk-free bets, free bets, deposit match bonuses, and more.

What is the legal age to gamble in Florida?

In Florida, all casino gambling aside from poker, including sports betting, is limited to those 21 and older. This does not include horse racing, poker, and the state lottery, which are available to those 18 and older. Yes, you can be 18 and play poker in Florida.

Can I place a bet while outside of Florida?

No you can’t. You must be in Florida to place a legal bet. Geolocation software will be required to certify your location.

What’s the difference between legal sports betting and using an offshore sportsbook?

On the face, very little appears to be different. Large offshore sportsbooks have flashy websites and offer the same betting markets as legal sportsbooks. In fact, the offshore books offer even more betting options because they are unregulated.

Look a little closer and you will see many differences. The first thing you see when searching for banking options on an offshore sportsbook’s website is instructions on how to sign up for an account to buy and sell bitcoin. A legal, regulated sportsbook would not be encouraging their customers to pay with bitcoin. This is because, like your bank account, any money you deposit in a legal sportsbook is protected and available for withdrawal at any time, pending operator approval. It is unlikely that the offshore sportsbooks would say the same thing. They make it easy to deposit but much harder to withdraw your funds.

Revenue generated from bets at legal, regulated sportsbooks stays in the state. The Seminole tribe is in the gaming business in order to provide for its 4,000 members. And the tribe employs over 20,000 people in Florida. Other gambling operators in the state provide hundreds of jobs as well. The state of Florida will receive revenue that will pay for government services for everyone in the state. Keeping things local is a definite benefit of legal sports betting.

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