A Florida Sports Betting Bill Appears For 2021, But Is It Dead On Arrival?

The latest attempt to legalize Florida sports betting through the lottery has been filed. Now, the countdown starts until the bill all but certainly dies.

Sen. Jeff Brandes filed SB 392, which would authorize sports betting in Florida regulated by the Florida Lottery. He also filed SB 394 and SB 396, which sets the sports betting revenue tax at 15% and license fees at $100,000, respectively.

While many operators would love to jump at the opportunity offer sports betting in Florida, it’s not that simple. Brandes submitted nearly identical legislation last year only to have it die in committee.

It’s not because Brandes’ bill is a bad one. It’s because it doesn’t involve the Seminole Tribe.

Tricky backdrop for Florida sports betting

The Seminoles, owners of the Hard Rock casino corporation, claim they have exclusivity over sports betting in the state.

It’s still up for debate whether that is true or not, though the Seminoles have the Federal Register on their side. There, sports betting is included in the Class III gaming definition.

Disagreements over gaming issues have led the Seminoles to stop honoring their revenue-share agreement. The two sides came together a bit late last year to discuss a broader gambling agreement but nothing came of it.

Sen. President Wilton Simpson‘s office told LSR earlier this month the Senate isn’t ready for gambling bills:

“President Simpson believes it is important to look at opportunities to maximize revenue for the State of Florida. Discussions continue regarding what is available to us on the private side and also with the Tribe. At this time, the Senate is not at a point where we are prepared to introduce legislation related to these issues.”

Referendum needed?

On top of the complications with the Seminole Indians, voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 that puts them in charge of gaming expansion.

Now, outside of any changes concerning tribal gaming with the Seminoles, voters must approve any expansion of gambling in the state.

Given how hard the Seminole Indians and the Walt Disney Co. have fought against gambling expansion in the past, it seems likely the only path forward for sports betting in the state is through the Seminoles.

Hard Rock expands sports betting business

There’s another reason to think SB 392 is dead on arrival. Hard Rock launched a new digital division for sports betting and iGaming that suggests the company is ready to make a genuine jump into the market.

The business division might be new but the people running it are industry veterans from the former Stars Group:

  • Rafi Ashkenazi, formerly CEO of Stars, will be the executive chair
  • Marlon Goldstein, former chief legal officer and general counsel of Stars, will be CEO
  • Matt Primeaux, former Stars senior VP of strategy and operations for the US, will be the president.

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