Florida Senator Files Latest Sports Betting Bill, Aims to Increase State’s Education Funds

  • Brandes has filed three sports betting-related bills to date, with SB968 being the most recent
  • All bills cover legalization of the industry, licensing, and fees as well as taxes and regulations
  • Money from sports betting would be placed into the state's Educational Enhancement Trust Fund
  • Consideration for the latest proposed legislation should begin in early 2020
flags of the United States and Florida state
Florida Senator Jeff Brandes’ recent filing of a sports betting bill seeks to legalize the pastime in the state, providing revenues for education as a result. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Revenues would go towards education

Florida state senator Jeff Brandes filed a sports betting bill this week, starting the state on its path to legalization of the pastime to help increase revenues for education.

Brandes is a Republican who has introduced three pieces of legislation regarding sports betting, namely the recent SB 968, SB 970, and SB 972.

Details of the three bills

Each bill filed by Brandes covers some section of sports betting legalization and/or regulation. SB 968 is the main bill and involves sports betting legalization for the state. SB 970 covers licensing and fees associated with the new industry. SB 972 regards taxes related to sports betting operations.

License holders would have to pay a permit fee of $100,000. They must also provide a 50/50 split of revenues

The Florida Department of Lottery will authorize licensees to offer sports betting services via SB 968. License holders would have to pay a permit fee of $100,000. They must also provide a 50/50 split of revenues with the state.

According to the legislation, a license holder may accept wagers from individuals 21 years of age or older. Operators can offer bets via their website, mobile application, or self-service kiosk.

Senator Brandes said that, without a well-regulated structure, the state has seen the creation of a “complex underground industry”. He maintained this may have bred addictive behavior and robbed the government of revenue that should go towards education. Brandes added that sports betting legislation would provide:

a legal framework in which Floridians can choose how to spend their time and money, without worry of being criminalized.”

Strict limitations on sports bettors

The bill that was filed has strict limitations on who can take part. It also limits when and where sports bets can be placed via a licensed operator. License holders will have to remit taxes once a month to the Department of Lottery.

The legislation also stops certain people from betting if they have an unfair advantage. This includes individuals who have inside knowledge of a sports team, such as anyone who works for the team or has access to information that can be advantageous for predicting outcomes of games.

Earlier proposed legislation failed

Earlier in 2019, lawmakers in Florida proposed sports betting legislation that would have given the Seminole tribe the ability to offer wagering services. The tribe would have been able to provide sports betting via their Hard Rock-branded casinos in the state. At the same time, the bill would have allowed pari-mutuel operators to provide sports betting via kiosks. The tribe would have received a portion of the kiosk revenues.

However, the bill failed to move forward after a revenue-sharing pact between the tribe and state fell apart.

Florida’s sports betting potential

Lawmakers should review the sports betting legislation early next year. The earliest the Florida Senate can hear the bill is set to be January 14. A special session might be called to hear the legislation, but that is not expected.

Florida is the third-largest state in the US when considering its population of just over 21 million people. The state is a top destination for legalized sports betting because of its number of inhabitants, several big cities, and numerous franchises within major professional sports leagues.

Colleges that have a large sports following are also located in the state and include the University of Florida, the University of Miami, and Florida State University.

In 2018, the American Gaming Association released a study that revealed that legalized sports betting in Florida would bring around $150m annually to the state, along with creating 3,800 new employment positions.

With SB 972, Brandes would place money from sports betting into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.

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