Florida online sports betting in jeopardy? Legal challenge latest

May 15, 2024

The road to legalized sports betting in Florida has not been easy. The last few years have been a battle between the Seminole Tribe and West Flagler over whether the “2021 Gaming Compact” is a legal agreement. However, the Seminole Tribe has been offering in-person and online sports betting for the last few months via Hard Rock Bet. But as the fight continues in the courtroom, mobile sports betting in the Sunshine State could potentially be in jeopardy. Today’s latest news 

Is online sports betting live in Florida right now?

Yes, online sports betting is live in Florida. In-person sports betting has been legalized at Seminole Tribe casinos around the state, and online sports gambling was launched on December 5, 2023. Hard Rock Bet is the only mobile sportsbook available for Florida residents, while some “peer-to-peer” DFS pick’em games are also available (LSR).

Florida is one of a handful of states with just one online sportsbook available, essentially granting a monopoly to Hard Rock Bet. Without competitors, the sportsbook can operate with odds and lines pricing that is even more advantageous than normal for themselves, which critics argue can hurt consumers in the long run.

Could online sports gambling in FL go away?

It’s possible that the decision to legalize sports gambling could be overturned. West Flagler submitted a writ of certiorari that states Florida’s gaming agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by offering online sports betting off tribal lands (Sports Betting Dime). It’s now up to the Supreme Court if it would like to hear this case, as West Flagler has requested. 

However, today the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) pushed back against West Flagler’s assertion that SCOTUS should review the case. “The court of appeals correctly upheld the Compact’s approval by operation of law, and its decision does not conflict with any decision of this Court or another court of appeals. This Court previously denied petitioners’ application for a stay of the court of appeals’ mandate raising the same contentions. The Court should similarly deny certiorari,” said the DOI’s brief.

If online sports betting were to go away in Florida, it wouldn’t be the first time. On November 1, 2021, Hard Rock Digital went live in Florida, and residents of the Sunshine State got their first opportunity to bet online (LSR, 2). It appeared to be the dawn of a new era of sports betting in Florida, but it lasted just three weeks before it was shut down. 

Arguments on each side of Florida sports betting case

The main sides in this case are West Flagler, the Seminole Tribe and the Department of Interior. The basis of the argument is West Flagler believes the Florida Gaming Compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe shouldn’t allow for mobile sports betting, while the DOI and the Seminole Tribe disagree. Here is a summary of the arguments from each side:

West Flagler

  • The 2021 Gaming Compact between the state and Seminole Tribe offers a monopoly on sports betting in the state of Florida, which has been seen nowhere else in the country.

  • The Gaming Compact is also in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act since the act specifically says “on tribal land” at the end (IRS).

Seminole Tribe and the Department of Interior

  • The Gaming Compact between the state and Seminole Tribe does not violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

  • The compact is not in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

  • The agreement between the state and Seminole Tribe does not violate the equal-protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause (Sports Handle).

What’s next for sports betting in Florida?

The next step in this case could be the Supreme Court of the United States. If SCOTUS decides to hear the case, it will have the final decision on whether the 2021 Gaming Compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. If the Supreme Court rules in the DOI’s favor, West Flagler’s journey of fighting the gaming compact would be over. But if the SCOTUS rules in West Flagler’s favor, the final decision for the future of sports betting in Florida would likely come sometime in the latter half of next year (Sports Betting Dime).

Florida sports betting statistics & handle figures

Unfortunately, Florida has not announced their mobile betting statistics or handle yet. Hard Rock Bet is the only online sportsbook available in the state, but state economists still estimate that the state will earn more than $340 million in tax revenue by the end of the fiscal year and a total of $4.43 billion over the next six years (Bookies).

Gambling Addiction rates rising in Florida

Mobile sports betting has been legal for only a few months in Florida, but gambling addiction rates are rapidly increasing. Before online sports betting was legal in the Sunshine State, residents had to travel to one of the Seminole Tribe’s casinos around the state. But now, residents can just log onto the Hard Rock Bet app from wherever they are in the state and place a bet. 

A 24/7 gambling helpline contracted by the state saw a 138% increase in the number of calls and text messages in the first 45 days after online sports betting launched.

Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, believes that is a major factor in the rising gambling addiction rate across the state, ​​“We have every reason to believe the growth of online sports betting is a major contributing factor to the increase in gambling problems” (NBC News). Gambling addiction rates are on the rise in Florida, and its Council on Compulsive Gambling is already overwhelmed.

Problem Gambling resources & treatment in Florida

If you’re a Florida resident or know someone in Florida who is struggling with a gambling addiction, there are multiple specialized resources available. You can call or text 888-ADMIT-IT, which puts you in contact with the Florida Problem Gambling Hotline. If you’re looking for another option, consider Birches Health. Birches is a completely online treatment provider that offers a team of trained clinicians who are ready to offer you help, on your schedule and from the comfort of home. With tailored intake and ongoing care, Birches is ready to help individuals fight their battle with Problem Gambling. 

Sources:

Is Sports Betting Legal in Florida? – Latest News and Updates for May 2024

PrizePicks, Underdog Switch To Peer-To-Peer Pick'em In Florida - Legal Sports Report

Department of the Interior Fires Back in SCOTUS Florida Online Sports Betting Case

Florida Sports Betting 2024 - Latest News and Updates

ITG FAQ #7 Answer-What is the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act? | Internal Revenue Service

DOI Says U.S. Supreme Court Not Needed In Florida Betting Case

Florida Sports Betting: Hard Rock Floats Online Casino/Sportsbook Monopoly Swap

Gambling addiction hotlines say volume is up and callers are younger as online sports betting booms

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