Is Sports Betting Legal in Florida?
Guess what? Sports betting in Florida is back. Just recently, on June 30, 2023, there was a massive legal dispute in DC that got everyone talking about the return of legal sports betting in the Sunshine State.
We’re all waiting with bated breath to see when Hard Rock Bet (you might remember it as Hard Rock Sportsbook) will make its comeback. It could be any day now.
Here’s the lowdown: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit threw a curveball by overturning a previous court decision. This older decision had put a stop to a 2021 agreement between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. This agreement had given the green light to the Seminoles to run both in-person and online legal sports betting platforms.
However, back on Nov. 22, 2021, a judge said that the Florida-Seminole Gaming deal broke some rules of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The main issue? Even though the betting server was on tribal land, the bettors in Florida weren’t. The Court wasn’t having any of that. So, after a lot of legal back and forth, Hard Rock Sportsbook decided to hit the pause button on sports betting on Dec. 4, 2021. And just like that, Floridians had a mere five-week taste of legal betting in 2021.
And if you were hoping for big names like DraftKings and FanDuel to step in, there’s some news. They tried to get on the November 2022 ballot, but it didn’t pan out. So, it looks like the big commercial betting sites won’t be making a splash in Florida anytime soon.
What’s next? Well, it might be up to the good folks of Florida to decide. But don’t hold your breath – the earliest chance for a vote on this might be in 2024. And if that goes through, we might not see any new sportsbook operators until 2025.
Sports Betting Florida Laws
When sports betting makes its comeback, anyone 21 and up can throw down a bet on a legit sportsbook app or site. And hey, you might even get to do it face-to-face at a tribal casino soon.
Quick dive into Florida’s sports betting scene:
Age Restrictions: You can bet on sports in Florida when you’re 21 years old and above.
On-the-Go Betting: Since Dec. 4, 2021, mobile betting has been MIA. If it bounces back, you might be able to bet from anywhere in Florida. But there’s a catch: you might need to be on tribal land to lock in that bet.
Sign Me Up: Back in the day, you could sign up with Hard Rock from anywhere in Florida. If they limit all betting to tribal areas, though, you might need to pop into a sportsbook to get the ball rolling.
Geofencing: Like other states, Florida’s online sportsbooks will use geofencing to make sure you’re actually in Florida when you bet. No out-of-staters allowed.
Land-based Casinos Thinking brick-and-mortar? Most tribal casinos in Florida will probably have a sportsbook. There were plans to team up with the Seminole Tribe at pari-mutuel spots, but that got shut down.
Top Spot: Want to bet in person? Hard Rock Sportsbook in Hollywood, FL is where it’s at.
Winning Taxes: Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, so if you win big (over $600), you’re only parting with the 24% federal cut. If you lose, that can balance out your winnings a bit.
Moreover, Florida sports betting is primarily governed by the tribal compact established in 2021.
Under this agreement, the Seminole Tribe is mandated to share 13.75% of their sports betting revenue with the state. However, this is contingent upon the Seminole Tribe entering into sports betting contracts with a minimum of three parimutuel operators within a three-month timeframe.
If these agreements are in place, the parimutuels can introduce their own betting platforms or “skins”, but all bets must be processed through the Seminole’s servers. If the Tribe fails to secure these agreements, the revenue share it owes to the state will increase by 2% until such contracts are finalized. From the revenue generated, parimutuels are entitled to retain 40%.
The legislation that solidified this compact is SB 2-A. As per this law, the Seminole Tribe holds the exclusive rights to operate sports betting in Florida.
Online Sportsbooks in Florida
At one time, Florida had only a single sportsbook offering betting promos, and it was none other than the well-known Hard Rock Bet. But right now, due to some recent legal shifts in the state, you can’t access the app.
The folks behind the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood are the Seminole Tribe, and they’re pretty much the big shots in the area. Since they had exclusive rights to sports betting in Florida, Hard Rock Bet was the top pick for many.
Now, the state’s made a deal with the tribe, opening the door for other sportsbook brands in Florida. But here’s the catch: these brands have to shake hands with the Seminole to get a piece of the action in the Florida betting scene.
So, let’s say DraftKings Sportsbook or BetMGM Sportsbook wants to jump into the mobile betting game in Florida. They’d have to cut a deal, giving the Seminole a slice of their earnings for the privilege to do business in the state.
Florida’s Stance on Daily Fantasy Sports
In Florida, daily fantasy sports (DFS) operate in a gray area. Major platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel are active in the state, even though DFS isn’t formally regulated. In 2021, as part of the broader sports betting negotiations, there was an attempt to officially recognize DFS. However, the legislative session concluded before any concrete decisions were made.
Both DraftKings and FanDuel voiced concerns about the proposed regulations, mainly because it would have mandated them to halt operations until they secured a proper license, among other potential hurdles.
Historically, the Seminole Tribe has been a significant roadblock in the path of DFS legalization in Florida.
Adding to the complexity, a 1991 opinion by then-Attorney General Robert Butterworth stated that operating a fantasy sports league would be against Florida’s laws, even though this was long before the concept of DFS emerged.
Due to this, Yahoo! Daily Fantasy decided to play it safe and restrict Florida residents from participating on its platform.
Most Popular Sports to Bet in Florida
Florida sports betting is bound to be a smash hit.
With a population of 21 million people, Florida ranks third in population, trailing only California and Texas. Plus, it’s the runner-up to California when it comes to drawing in tourists.
NFL in Florida: The state boasts three NFL squads: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and Jacksonville Jaguars. And let’s be real, when it comes to sports betting in the U.S., the NFL is king.
NBA Florida: Florida’s got two NBA teams, the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, which pretty much dominate the basketball buzz in the state. Thanks to the game’s fast pace, NBA bets, especially in-game ones, are super popular.
MLB Florida: The Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays represent Florida in Major League Baseball. Even though they sometimes have a tough time filling seats, the state’s role as the Grapefruit League’s Spring Training hub proves baseball’s still a big deal here.
NHL Florida: The NHL has two teams skating in Florida: the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers just made a splash in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, while the Lightning, past Cup winners, are still a force to be reckoned with.
NCAA Florida: The state’s college football scene is lit with the Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, and Miami Hurricanes. It’d be a smart move for Florida to let folks bet on these local college teams, keeping that excitement in-house.
Golfing in Florida: Florida’s a hotspot for top-tier PGA and LIV golfers. Take Brooks Koepka, for instance. Not only does he live in Florida, but he’s also a Florida State alum. Keep an eye on him; he’s pegged as a top contender for the British Open come July 2023.
Where can you place sports bets in Florida?
While the tribal agreement with the Seminoles does touch upon the inclusion of retail sportsbooks in Florida, the specifics of their design and operation are still under discussion.
The Seminole Tribe owns six casinos across the state, and once sports betting officially kicks off in Florida, it’s anticipated that some of the significant Seminole casinos will feature on-site sportsbooks.
These casinos are:
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood
- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa
- Seminole Casino in Coconut Creek
- Seminole Classic Casino in Hollywood
- Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee
- Seminole Casino Brighton in Okeechobee
Moreover, expect to see sportsbooks at Florida’s pari-mutuel racing venues like Gulfstream Park Racetrack and Tampa Bay Downs Racecourse.
However, for these facilities to operate sportsbooks, they’d need to collaborate with the Seminole Tribe, as stipulated in the recent 30-year agreement.
Most Recent Sports Betting Updates in Florida
- August 14: Big day for Florida’s sports betting future. West Flagler, the bigwig behind Miami’s Magic City Casino, has a decision to make. They can either ask the D.C. Circuit for a do-over or shoot their shot with the U.S. Supreme Court, as per CBS12news. If they opt for a rehearing, Floridians might have to play the waiting game before placing bets.
- July 17: Name change alert! Hard Rock Sportsbook is now Hard Rock Bet. And guess what? They might start taking bets again by late August. This comes after the D.C. Circuit Court gave the green light to Florida’s 2021 tribal-state gaming compact. So, betting on the Tribe’s app? Totally legal in Florida now.
- July 14: Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, spilled some tea on Axios. He’s betting on the Seminole Tribe to get their online sportsbook up and running before college football starts on August 26. But he’s also got an eye on the potential legal drama that could pause all sports betting.
- June 30: There’s a glimmer of hope for legal sports betting in Florida. The D.C. Circuit Court gave a thumbs up to the 2021 tribal-state gaming compact. This reverses a previous decision that wasn’t too friendly to the compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. But, West Flagler Associates might play spoiler if they appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, as reported by Florida Politics.
- June 29: In NHL Draft news, the Tampa Bay Lightning made some moves. They traded Ross Colton to the Avalanche and snagged Ethan Gauthier with the 37th pick.
- June 13: Tough break for the Florida Panthers. They lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights clinched their first championship with a 9-3 win in Game 5.
- June 12: The Miami Heat also faced defeat, falling to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals with a 94-89 loss in Game 5.
- July 11: The court’s decision on Florida sports betting got pushed to 2023.
- February 10: Legal expert Daniel Wallach told Gaming Today not to hold their breath for legal sports betting in Florida until maybe 2024 or 2025.
- January 28: No voter referendum for Florida sports betting in November 2022. Florida Education Champions couldn’t gather enough signatures in time.
- January 19: The U.S. Department of the Interior appealed the Florida sports betting case.
- December 20: While Florida sports betting was up in the air, another horse racing betting app, BetMGM Horse Racing, entered the scene.
- December 4: Hard Rock Sportsbook hit pause on its mobile app in Florida after a court ruling against the Seminole Tribe’s compact.
- November 22: Judge Dabney Friedrich sided with two pari-mutuels, tossing out the compact legalizing Florida sports betting.
- November 1: Betting in Florida went live with HardRockSportsbook.com leading the charge.
- October 15: Even though sports betting was legal in Florida, the Seminole Tribe wasn’t taking bets due to pending lawsuits.
- September 16: Legal obstacles stood in the way of sports betting in Florida.
- August 6: Florida’s sports betting compact got federal approval, but legal challenges lingered.
- July 6: Magic City Casino threw a legal challenge, claiming the mobile sports betting section of the compact was against the law.
- May 26: Governor Ron DeSantis put his signature on the Florida sports betting compact.
The History of Florida Sports Betting
Florida’s sports betting scene was stuck in a rut as the year kicked off. The ongoing tribal issues, especially with the Seminoles, left everyone guessing. Given the slow progress on the lawsuit after appeals, it looked like online sports betting wouldn’t make a comeback in Florida that year.
DraftKings and FanDuel had hoped for a ballot initiative, but it didn’t make the cut for the November 2022 general election. They waved the white flag by January’s end. Still, DraftKings’ head honcho, Jason Robins, was optimistic about 2024.
The 2021 gaming compact had its day in court. After much back-and-forth, both parties made their case in front of a three-judge panel in D.C.
Florida finally jumped on the sports betting bandwagon. The state and the Seminole Tribe inked a deal, green-lighting mobile betting. By May 2021, the state legislature gave it a thumbs up. The feds took a look, as they’re supposed to, and added it to the Federal Register (though that’s not a nod of approval).
After years of haggling, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole seemed to find common ground. There were whispers of progress early in 2021, but folks had heard that song before.
This time, with sports betting booming nationwide, Florida and the tribe decided to get with the times.
But the deal wasn’t without its drama. Lawsuits rained down after DeSantis signed off. The Hard Rock Sportsbook app did launch but hit a wall when a federal court nixed the Florida-Seminole compact. The tribe’s fighting back, but for now, the app’s offline.
The year started with a bang. With tribal gaming payments on pause, lawmakers were all talking about sidelining the Seminoles to focus on other gaming avenues.
Sen. Jeff Brandes wanted the Florida Lottery to oversee sports betting, bypassing the tribe. The Seminoles weren’t having it. Brandes’ bill tanked, but a bill to stop the Florida Lottery from dabbling in sports games gained traction. It didn’t make it to a House vote, though.
Rumors swirled about secret talks on a mega gambling deal, including sports betting. But when the session wrapped up in March, no deal was in sight.
The Orlando Sentinel spilled the beans on a proposal letting the tribe host mobile sports betting. This would mean bigger payouts to the state. But the catch? Pari-mutuels could keep their card games.
Seminole’s lawyer, Marc Dunbar, broke down why it didn’t add up for the tribe to ditch their card game beef for sports betting.
The Seminole and ex-Gov. Rick Scott’s deal was winding down, so the gaming compact was hot on Florida’s agenda.
Senate bigwig Bill Galvano handed the reins to Simpson to hash things out with the Seminoles.
Simpson and the tribe sketched out a deal. The state would pocket at least $500 million annually. In return, the tribe wanted certain card games at state-run spots shut down.
Both tribal casinos and pari-mutuels could’ve dabbled in sports betting, with the latter sharing profits with the Seminoles.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis wasn’t on board. The Seminoles’ response? They’d stop their yearly $350 million payments until the card game drama was sorted.
The Seminoles played their cards right in November, backing Amendment 3.
This amendment tied the legislature’s hands, stopping them from green-lighting new casino gambling. Any gambling expansion needed the people’s vote.
So, if Florida wanted sports betting, they’d have to play ball with the Seminoles.
The Best Sports Teams to Bet on in Florida
When it comes to professional sports, few states rival Florida. From Tampa Bay to Miami, and from Jacksonville to Orlando, Florida proudly parades 11 major league teams and has clinched 11 national titles across the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLS.
Let’s not forget the college sports scene. Teams such as the:
- Florida Gators
- Florida State Seminoles
- Miami Hurricanes
These teams are like titans in college sports, and some argue they’ve got even more passionate fans than the pro teams.
The Dolphins are a household name in American sports, especially for their dominance in the 70s and 80s. They clinched Super Bowls in ’72 and ’73, bouncing back from their ’71 loss. Under the legendary Don Shula and with Dan Marino’s arm, they saw more victories, though some were bittersweet. As 2023 approaches, there’s a renewed sense of hope. With Mike McDaniel leading the charge, they’re looking strong, especially after their recent playoff appearance.
While the Dolphins’ golden days might feel distant, the Miami Heat’s recent triumphs have kept the city’s sports spirit alive. Icons like Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James have all left their mark.
After a stellar run in the 2022-2023 season, all eyes are on them, especially with rumors of Damien Lillard eyeing a move.
Though they’re a newer MLB team, the Marlins have tasted success. Founded in ’93, they clinched World Series titles in ’97 and ’03. While they’ve been quiet since their early 2000s success, 2023 looks promising.
The Panthers offer top-tier hockey action, even if they’ve been overshadowed by their state rivals. Their 2023 playoff journey was memorable, even if it ended in heartbreak against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Inter Miami FC
While they’re still carving out their history, David Beckham’s Inter Miami FC has star power and allure. Their recent signing of soccer legend Lionel Messi has put them on the global map.
The Jaguars have shown promise, especially with their deep 2017 playoff run. But they’ve often been halted by teams like the New England Patriots.
The Magic have had their moments, with stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Yet, an NBA title remains elusive.
Orlando City SC
With a start that included Brazilian star Kaka, Orlando City SC showed promise. They’ve seen some post-season action, but they’re still chasing greater glory.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs’ journey from underdogs to champions is inspiring. Their 2002 Super Bowl win was a landmark, and with Tom Brady’s recent addition, they clinched another in 2021.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have shown they’re contenders, especially with their 2008 World Series run. As 2023 unfolds, they’re a team to watch.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have been electric, with Stanley Cup wins in 2019-20, 2020-21, and their first in 2003-04. With stars like Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman, they’re always a threat, even if 2023 wasn’t their year.
In essence, Florida’s sports scene is rich and varied, making it a bettor’s dream.
Is Horse Betting Legal in Florida?
Horse racing has a long-standing tradition in Florida and is legally sanctioned. Pari-mutuel betting, a system in which all bets of a particular type are placed together in a pool, is permitted for various events including horse racing, harness horse racing, quarter-horse racing, greyhound racing, jai alai games, and cardroom poker games. Moreover, slot machine gaming is allowed at pari-mutuel facilities in specific counties, namely Broward and Miami-Dade.
Among the state’s renowned thoroughbred racetracks are Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West, and Tampa Bay Downs. Gulfstream Park, in particular, is notable for hosting significant prep races that lead up to the Triple Crown, including the Holy Bull Stakes, Fountain of Youth Stakes, and the Florida Derby.
Hialeah Park, a historic venue that opened its doors in 1922, now features quarter-horse racing.
For those interested in wagering, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering oversees and regulates betting on horse racing. Additionally, online horse betting is accessible to Florida residents through platforms like TVG, TwinSpires, and BetAmerica.
It’s worth noting that while horse racing remains popular, greyhound racing has seen a decline. Once known as the hub for dog racing with 11 tracks, Florida’s relationship with the sport changed in 2018. Voters chose to end dog racing, and by the start of 2021, the practice was officially halted in the state.
Florida Sports Betting FAQ
The Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is responsible for regulating various forms of gambling in Florida. This includes the authority to oversee the state’s responsibilities as per the compact with the Seminole Tribe.
Yes, the compact does allow for online sports betting in Florida. However, due to a federal court decision in late 2021, there are currently no operational sports betting apps in the state. The legality of mobile sports betting under tribal law is still uncertain and may require court clarification.
The Seminole Tribe is a Native American group native to Florida. They hold the exclusive rights to offer casino-style gaming in the state, which encompasses sports betting. The tribe owns and operates several establishments, including the prominent Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, which is one of the largest casino complexes in the region.
Currently, no one can legally bet on sports in Florida. However, according to the compact, individuals aged 21 and above would be eligible once sports betting is operational.
Certain individuals, such as key personnel from professional and collegiate sports teams (like coaches, players, trainers, and officials), as well as referees, would be prohibited from placing bets.
No, these sites are not legal options. All legitimate sportsbook operators in the US are licensed at the state level, as there’s no federal licensing. Websites claiming to accept bets from anywhere in the US are typically offshore operations.
Betting on these sites is not only illegal for US citizens but also risky, as these sites don’t offer the same protections as state-licensed platforms.