JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sports betting in Florida is on hold after a federal district court judge ruled Monday the state’s 2021 Gaming Compact with the Seminole Tribe is invalid.
The Seminole gaming pact was signed in April, approved by lawmakers in May and allowed to go into effect by the Department of the Interior when the 45-day review period expired without a comment. But the compact was immediately met with legal challenges.
Under the so-called “hub-and-spoke design,” the tribe could take bets from any phone anywhere under the theory that it was legal because the servers are located on tribal lands. When asked about the decision this morning in Broward County, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he thought the decision would be appealed.
“We also knew when you do hub and spoke, it was an unsettled legal issue. We structured the compact so the compact was preserved for the casinos and other stuff. So we’re going to be getting revenue. Obviously we’ll be getting less revenue from sports betting if we are not able to do hub-and-spoke. But I would imagine that’s going to be appealed,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Ft. Lauderdale.
But an appeal is problematic. The tribe was not a party to the suit and neither is the state. Only the Department of Interior can appeal. And because it wasn’t briefed beforehand, the state may not get any revenue since the compact signed in 2010 is now in effect.
The governor’s office said Tuesday the legal team is trying to figure out its options.
The compact had allowed sports betting starting October 15, as well as craps and roulette, none of which were previously legal in Florida.
In a one-sentence statement, the Seminole Tribe said it was reviewing the judge’s order and carefully considering its next step.
Florida would potentially receive $20 billion over the next 30 years under the agreement if it’s reinstated.
State Representative Randy Fine said sports betting could be back if voters will it.
“Voters could have an opportunity even if the compact worked out, but not until next November,” Fine said.
Florida Education Champions is behind the citizen initiative seeking to legalize sports betting across the board. Tax revenue generated would be used to boost education funding.
“We estimate hundreds of millions of dollars and that’s based on comparison to other states, large states, that are also implementing this,” said Christina Johnson with Florida Education Champions.
And the citizen initiative wouldn’t run into some of the issues the compact faced, because voters would have to approve it.
Unlike the compact, the initiative allows for betting not only on professional and collegiate but also amateur sporting events.
John Sowinski with No Casinos doubts Florida voters would sign off.
“You’d have people betting on high school football if this thing were to pass. I don’t think Florida voters, that that agrees with their sensibility. Even those who might not be that opposed to the general idea of sports betting,” Sowinski said.
If it does make the ballot the initiative would need 60% voter approval to pass, a feat no gaming expansion of this magnitude has ever achieved in Florida.
The sports betting initiative only has 116,000 signatures validated so far, but the group backing it tells us more than half a million have been collected. It will need approval from the State Supreme Court and nearly 400,000 more signatures to make the 2022 ballot.