Florida Governor and Seminole Tribe Reportedly Agree on Legal Sports Betting

  • The Miami Herald reported that the parties reached an agreement in principle this week
  • Both retail and online sports betting would reportedly be part of the deal
  • The current legislative session ends next week, so a special session might be necessary
  • Question marks remain about the process of legalizing sports betting
  • The Seminole Tribe and the state have been in disagreement in recent years over gambling issues
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe have reportedly come to a deal that would see legal sports betting come to the state if it gets approved by the state legislature. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update April 26, 2021: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially announced on Friday the exclusive new proposed gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. As part of this deal, retail sportsbooks can only be under the operation of the tribe and they will be allowable at sporting venues. Pari-mutuel facilities could launch online sportsbooks, but they would need to give a 55% revenue share to the tribe.

The deal reportedly will generate at least $2.5bn in revenue for the state over the next five years. A special legislative session in May will focus on considering the passage of this proposed 30-year agreement.

A huge potential deal

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have reportedly come to an agreement in principle regarding a new compact that would see sports betting become legal in the state. As much as $500m could end up being injected into the state’s coffers annually as a result.

negotiations are ongoing”

The Miami Herald reported that five sources who are representing parties in the negotiations revealed that the state and the tribe came to an agreement this week. However, the sources were unable to speak on the record about the supposed deal. A Seminole Tribe spokesman had said on Wednesday that “negotiations are ongoing” and he did not confirm that any sort of agreement was made.

According to the Herald, the parties are now finalizing the proposal’s legal framework and an announcement could come by the week’s end. Both online and retail sports betting would appear to be permitted as part of this potential deal. Other gambling-related issues have also supposedly been on the table during these discussions, such as exclusivity rights for certain casino games.

Process of getting approval

If a deal is made, time is of the essence to get it pushed through the legislature, as the current session comes to a close on April 30. Both Governor DeSantis and Senate President Wilton Simpson are in favor of legalizing sports betting and are reportedly seeking a vote on the matter next week. House Speaker Chris Sprowls, however, is not in as much of a rush to push through such a complex matter. A special legislative session in May might be necessary to thoroughly discuss possible sports betting legalization.

Last month, both DeSantis and Simpson informed parimutuel owners that a deal regarding legal sports betting was “getting close.” The Tribe reportedly rejected an initial offer at the beginning of April, but remained in talks with the governor.

Question marks still exist over how exactly sports betting would become legal. Some believe that the activity falls under Amendment 3, meaning that a voter referendum would be necessary before sports betting could become a reality. If the Seminole Tribe was in charge of sports betting, the Governor and others believe that they could avoid triggering a public vote as the tribe’s gaming operations fall under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Therefore, the matter would not be subject to Amendment 3. A new state-tribal gaming compact would need approval from the federal agency that oversees Indian gaming.

A potential end to the disagreement

Over half of the states in the country have made some form of sports betting legal so far. Florida has the third biggest population in the country and it would be the largest legal US sports betting market to date. It could be worth in the region of $2bn. Previous attempts at legalization have not made much headway.

The Seminole Tribe is the main player in the Florida gambling market, having had exclusive rights to offer certain types of casino games for many years. In return, it was paying the state a revenue share of about $350m or more each year. A dispute began in 2017, though, with then-Governor Rick Scott and has largely rumbled on ever since. One of the main issues of contention was the exclusivity rights to offer certain types of games. While the parties reached a temporary deal in 2018, it has since expired.