Sports betting in Florida removes obstacles and faces others
St. PETERSBURG, FL – During this NFL season, sports fans in Florida may finally get the chance to legally bet on their favorite team. This could mean a large windfall of new revenue for the state, but legal obstacles may stand in the way.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl at home, the Tampa Bay Lightning earned back-to-back Stanley Cups, and the Tampa Bay Rays secured a trip to the World Championships.
Our professional sports teams have earned the nickname “Champa Bay”.
‘People are already betting on sports’
Sports fans like Rob Coronado have benefited from betting on local teams.
“I do it, you know, without it being legal I guess,” Coronado told us while watching baseball games one afternoon at Ferg’s Sports Bar in Saint Petersburg.
He is far from the only person who secretly bet on sports.
When we asked Rob Stamey about it, he admitted that every one of his friends bets on sports.
“Why should people go behind the scenes or on all these apps to get to that?” Stami asked. “So legalizing sports betting will make things easier for all sports fans.”
Florida Senator Jeff Brands last year sponsored legislation calling for the legalization of sports betting so the state can finally share some of the profits.
“People are already betting on sports. They’ve been betting on sports for years in Florida. And again, we’re just creating a legal path for them to do that versus what’s happening today, where everyone generally looks the other way,” Brandis said.
But Senator Brands’ law, which would have put sports gambling under the control of the Florida Lottery, was not passed.
The agreement could pay the state $6 billion by 2030
Instead, Governor Ron DeSantis announced in April that he had reached a preliminary 30-year agreement with the Indian Seminole tribe, which operates Hard Rock Casinos.
That deal included offering both in-person and online sports betting.
RELATED: Governor DeSantis signs new gaming agreement with Seminole Tribe
Under the agreement, the Seminole tribe of Florida will pay up to $6 billion by 2030 in sports betting revenue. This equates to $277 per Florida resident.
The agreement was approved by the state legislature and was not contested by the US Department of the Interior, which regulates the Indian Games.
But not everyone supported that deal, including Senator Brands.
“Basically we have a monopoly for the Seminole tribe to provide sports gambling to the state of Florida. I voted against that monopoly. I don’t think it’s the right way to do it. I think we should open it up and let the market decide where people want to place their bets and we don’t have to go through one channel, And it’s a Florida tribe,” Brands said.
The lawsuit was filed, the referendum sought
The agreement is now being challenged in federal court by two South Florida commercial gaming operations, which say the agreement will harm their businesses and violate the law.
The lawsuit says that mobile sports betting should not be allowed under the agreement.
“Contrary to the legal imagination created by the 2021 charter and enforcement law, the betting is being put in the place of both the bookmaker and the casino,” the complaint says.
“It could be explained that you can only bet sports on tribal property,” Brandes said.
RELATED: Florida could become the most populous state to introduce mobile sports betting if lawmakers agree to new rules
The state filed a motion to dismiss the sentence, but the judge has yet to issue a ruling on it.
Other companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel, are trying to get into the Florida sports betting event by sponsoring a ballot initiative that would open up sports betting to other companies.
If entered on next year’s ballot, any expansion would have to be approved by 60 percent of the vote.
ABC Action News scheduled an interview with Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen who helped write Seminole Compact, but his spokesperson later canceled, saying he was too busy to talk.
The Seminole tribe recently ran ads on Florida television stations, including ABC Action News, to promote the benefits of the agreement.
“People are already gambling. Why not make some money from that?” said Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg’s Sports Bar.
Ferguson says he doesn’t care who’s behind it, and believes legal sports betting will be good for Florida and good for his business.
“People want to watch six or seven matches at once and when you have 90 TVs, we are the perfect place for that,” he said.
If the lawsuit is dismissed, sports betting could be allowed as early as next month.
If it ends up in court, the issue may not be resolved until next year.
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