Florida Follows Legal Sports Betting Flurry With Trio of New Bills

  • The three bills would legalize both retail and online sports wagering in the Sunshine State
  • Rep. LaMarca intends for sports betting to raise “millions in revenue” for the state post-pandemic
  • The bills permit licenses for tribal properties, casinos, pari-mutuel facilities, and sports venues
  • Florida’s legislature will also consider Sen. Brandes’s sports betting legislation, filed last year
Closeup of Florida on a map
In Florida, two legislators filed three new bills last week which would create a legal sports betting market in the Sunshine State. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A joint effort

Two legislators in the state of Florida have taken their first steps toward legalizing sports betting in the state after filing three new bills.

Rep. Chip LaMarca (R – Lighthouse Point) and Rep. Anika Omphroy (D – Lauderdale Lakes) proposed the legislation last Thursday. It consists of three bills, which together create the framework for a legal retail and online sports betting market in Florida.

Safe and regulated domestic sports wagering is an industry Florida deserves.”

In a statement released last week, Rep. LaMarca explained the advantages of such legislation. He said a legal sports wagering market would “translate into millions in revenue,” allowing Florida to recover from the impact of the pandemic. LaMarca also argued it would permit the state to benefit from the many sporting events hosted within its borders, saying: “Safe and regulated domestic sports wagering is an industry Florida deserves.”

Taking a closer look

Under the Florida Constitution, individual bills can only cover a single subject. As a result, LaMarca and Omphroy’s sports wagering legislation includes three different bills. HB 1317 implements the overall policy, HB 1321 sets out licensing details, and HB 1319 forms the tax structure surrounding the betting market.

The legislation permits sports betting at tribal properties, casinos, and pari-mutuel facilities, in addition to professional sports venues. It permits those properties to provide retail betting and set up a website and app for customers to wager online. Operator licenses would cost $7.5m initially and an additional $1m each year for renewal.

In her own statement accompanying the legislation, Omphroy described it as “a privilege” to file the bills. She said the state needed a legal market to boost tourism and fill budget gaps in areas such as education and worker training. “Sports wagering can provide the funds that we are currently leaving on the table,” Omphroy concluded.

Florida’s legislature will consider the bills in the upcoming legislative session which runs from March 2 to March 30.

A fresh push in Florida

The legalization of sports betting failed to gain approval during Florida’s legislative session. This hasn’t deterred the state’s sports betting backers, however, who are making a fresh push for a legal market in the new year.

Brandes also said he intends a legal market to raise vital state funds

This year, Florida’s legislative body is also set to consider another sports wagering proposal introduced by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg). He filed SB 392 and accompanying bills in December with the purpose of legalizing sports betting in the state. Similar to the reasoning of LaMarca, Brandes also said he intends for a legal market to raise vital state funds, primarily for education.

Brandes’s bill places regulation of the industry in the hands of the Florida Department of the Lottery. The body would have the power to approve licenses for operators and to regulate sports pools. The bill sets a licensing fee of $100,000 and a tax rate of 15%.

Despite the filing of multiple new sports betting bills this year, any Florida legislation faces an uphill battle because of opposition from the Seminole Tribe. The tribe has a 20-year casino gambling deal with the state, signed in 2010. So far, the group has never backed a sports wagering market, but it is yet to comment on fresh bill proposals this year.