The Sunshine State's sports betting scene is in a state of flux, with legal battles and court rulings adding to the complexity. Here's an update on the situation and what it could mean for the future of Florida sports betting.
In a surprising turn, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed a previous lower court decision, effectively giving the green light for sports betting in Florida.
The decision, delivered on June 30, grants the Seminole Tribe, the sole gaming entity in the state, the right to operate retail sportsbooks at its tribal casinos and initiate its Hard Rock Digital platform.
Despite this, the launch of Florida sports betting operations remains a matter of "when," not "if." The Seminole Tribe, in response to the court's ruling, stated that they are "reviewing the decision to determine next steps."
Under Rule 35 of the circuit court, the judgment won't become a mandate until 45 days after it was issued. With a seven-day clerks' order on the case, the earliest the mandate could come into effect would be 52 days from the date of the ruling, or Aug. 21.
This is just over two weeks before the start of the first NFL regular season game between the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 7.
Of course, this timeline assumes that West Flagler and Associates, the entity that filed the case against the U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb A. Haaland, chooses not to appeal. If they decide to appeal, the process could extend by months or even years.
If the Seminoles manage to launch in August, Florida, with its 22.2 million population, could become the largest state by population to offer digital wagering for the 2023 NFL season.
This would eclipse New York, which launched four major operators on Jan. 8, 2022, and currently has nine platforms available, the maximum allowed by state law. However, the Floridian betting scene won't offer the same range of choices as New York.
The 2020 Seminole-Florida compact grants the Seminoles a monopoly but leaves room for commercial operators that want to partner with parimutuels for access. In October 2021, the Seminoles announced partnerships with five parimutuels.
Partnerships with the Seminoles would not come cheap for commercial operators. Such arrangements would require companies like DraftKings and FanDuel to pay a $20 million license fee and share 60% of their net gaming revenue with the tribe.
Moreover, the Seminoles will control the servers and customer data, a point of contention for many potential partners. This has led to the reluctance of major operators to enter into such agreements. On top of that, there's the ongoing legal battle with West Flagler and Associates.
While the recent court ruling favored the Seminoles, it's clear that the case isn't closed yet. West Flagler and Associates could still appeal the decision, which would delay the implementation of sports betting in Florida.
Furthermore, the Seminoles' monopoly on sports betting could face scrutiny under federal antitrust laws. If a lawsuit were to be filed, it would add another layer of complexity to the already intricate situation in Florida.
Despite the numerous roadblocks and potential issues, the future of sports betting in Florida is still promising. The state has a massive population of likely bettors, and the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL all have strong fan bases in Florida.
If the Seminoles can successfully launch their platform and secure partnerships with commercial operators, the state could become a powerhouse in the sports betting industry.
However, the timeline for this is still uncertain, and it's clear that there are several hurdles to overcome. It's a story of "wait and see," but the future looks bright for sports betting fans in the Sunshine State.