Attempts to Expand Florida’s Gambling Market May Have Failed

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The clock is winding down on the current Florida legislative session and it’s beginning to look like the Sunshine State’s sports gambling future isn’t too bright. Governor Ron DeSantis has been trying to work with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for the past several weeks in order to come up with a mutually beneficial sports gambling package, but it now appears that the tribe is ready to step on the brakes. With only two weeks left in the current session, there isn’t much time left to find an equitable solution.

The Seminole Tribe Hold Out On Sports Gambling

Due to its existing compact with the state, the Seminole Tribe has control over virtually all of the gaming activity in Florida, with only a few exceptions. That same agreement also covers the tribe if gaming expansion is considered and it has shown no hesitation in the past when it comes to enforcing its control. It has previously cut off revenue sharing payments due to the state, depriving it of $350 million in annual revenue. This may have led DeSantis to take a more cautious approach in trying to negotiate a sports gambling deal with the tribe.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that DeSantis presented what could be his final offer to the Seminole Tribe this past Monday. It would allow the Seminole to control sports gambling but would require acceptance by the tribe for a new casino in Miami Beach. Given that this is just down the road from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, only 30 minutes away, that idea isn’t finding a lot of support from the tribe.

Seminole Tribe Wants a Larger Cut

The Seminole Tribe would also have to give up “hundreds of millions of dollars” each year in payments to Florida. The tribe wasn’t impressed and rejected the offer on Tuesday. It reportedly doesn’t like the financial terms of the arrangement, but isn’t ready to completely call off negotiations. A spokesperson explains that the tribe is still discussing options with lawmakers, a statement confirmed by Senator Travis Hutson. He chairs Florida’s Senate Regulated Industries Committee and said Tuesday, “Negotiations and discussions with the Tribe are still ongoing at this time.”

There are now 28 states, along with DC, that have legal sports gambling markets in place and Florida is expected to be one of the larger ones. Gaming law expert and attorney Daniel Wallach explains, “Florida has the potential to really be a true sports gaming destination. Florida’s metrics — third-highest population size, the fact that it draws in excess of 100 million visitors annually, along with the warm weather and the fact that the peak betting periods in U.S. sports are the winter months — and it becomes a perfect storm for sports betting success.” To put a number on it, some analysts predict the market could be worth as much as $1 billion to Florida each year.

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