- Deal Would Bring Retail Sportsbooks to Florida
- Casinos Could also Offer Craps and Roulette
- Agreement Still Requires Approval
One week after a Florida sportsbooks agreement appeared out of reach, news broke that a deal is close. The state government, led by Governor Ron DeSantis, and the Seminole Tribe broke an impasse over the share of revenue and exclusivity.
The Tribe pulled out of its compact with the state in 2019. After winning in court, the Tribe’s moves deprived Florida of approximately $350 million annually. A renegotiated compact that taps into Native American casino revenue is a huge victory for Gov. DeSantis.
Who Will Control Florida Sportsbooks?
Though details of the plan are not yet public, the new compact grants the Seminole Tribe exclusive control of Florida sportsbooks. The Tribe could build retail sports betting hubs at each of its six South Florida casinos. They could also partner with various pari-mutuel operators throughout the Sunshine State. The pari-mutuels could offer retail sportsbooks at their locations and pay the Seminoles a percentage of the revenues.
There are 26 racetracks, jai-alai frontons, and racinos across Florida that could benefit from these partnerships. Along with legislation that allows them to operate card rooms without offering live events, their outlook is suddenly bright.
What Will Florida Casinos Look Like Under New Compact?
In exchange for restarting their annual contributions to the state government, the Seminole Tribe receives exclusive sportsbook operating rights. The Tribe also will be allowed to convert their casinos to full-service resorts. For the first time, the state will allow table games like craps and roulette. The deal allows up to three new casinos. Locations could include tribal land in Hollywood, Tampa, and Brighton, near Lake Okeechobee in the center of the peninsula.
Under the agreement, the Seminole Tribe will drop its objection to the parimutuels running card rooms at their locations. According to Tribe Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., the agreement “cements [their] partnership with the state for decades to come.”
However, it does not appear statewide online Florida sportsbooks are part of the plan. While the Seminole Tribe could partner with online operators, mobile bets would be limited to people on tribal land. Like Arizona’s recent regulation, professional sports venues could also set up regulated sportsbooks. By partnering with the Seminoles, wagering during Dolphins games or at TPC Sawgrass could soon be a reality.
What’s Next For Florida Sportsbooks?
Any revised compact between the Governor and the Seminole Tribe must be approved by the state legislature. The 2021 Florida legislative session ends on April 30, so there is little time to get a deal done. State Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) anticipates a special session related to gambling. This would give lawmakers time to debate whether the new agreement is beneficial for the state.
Some opponents of gambling believe that any expanded options, such as Florida sportsbooks, would require a constitutional amendment. They may sue to stop the new gambling expansion’s implementation.
Additionally, whether billionaire Jeffrey Soffer could build a casino at Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Resort will need to be addressed. Apparently, the Seminole Tribe will not prevent Soffer transferring his license from the Big Easy casino in Hallandale Beach. But Miami Beach officials strongly object to any gambling in the city.
Finally, the new Florida sportsbooks compact will need approval from the federal Department of the Interior. So far it appears the Miccosukee Tribe and its Miami-Dade county casino are omitted from the new compact. If the Miccosukee Tribe objects, federal approval could be thrown into question.
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