Florida Special Legislative Session Scheduled for May 17th
A special legislative session for Florida lawmakers will be held in the state capital of Tallahassee the week of May 17th, beginning with a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting to review a proposed 30 year gaming compact that Governor Ron Desantis negotiated with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Before the compact can be formalized, it requires the approval of the full legislature, with the measure expected to hit the Senate floor for a vote on May 18th followed by a House vote on May 19th after consideration by multiple committees.
The compact, which was finalized and agreed to after extensive negotiations, is groundbreaking in that it introduces sports betting to the Sunshine State and provides the state of Florida an estimated $2.5 billion in the first five years. It is touted as a huge win-win situation for the state’s taxpayers as well as the Seminole Tribe.
Florida is one of the prize states left that has not yet legalized sports betting and with nine Big Four sports franchises, it’s certain to generate a large amount of action even without considering the tourist trade. The compact still gives the Seminole Tribe exclusive control of sports betting in Florida, including wagers placed on mobile devices or at licensed racetracks and jai-alai locations that are not physically located on tribal land.
That exclusivity would also extend to any sportsbooks that might be opened at any of the sports venues in the state, including Hard Rock Stadium for which the Seminole Tribe holds the naming rights. For that privilege, the Tribe is committed to pay the state $300 million annually for the duration of the compact.
In addition to adding sports betting, the agreement expands the games that the Seminole Tribe can offer at its casino to include craps and roulette, vastly increasing their casino based revenue opportunities. The legislature will also be addressing other gambling related issues in the state, including whether to allow slot machine operations at racetracks and jai-alai facilities even when there is no live action taking place.
Mobile Wagering Not a Slam Dunk
There are still some questions at the federal level regarding the legality of allowing mobile sports betting from areas that are outside tribal lands. The compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe falls under the jurisdiction of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
The IGRA stipulates that all gaming activities covered under the compact would need to occur on tribal lands, so there is some interpretation required on where the mobile wager actually occurs. One school of thought is that as long as the bets are processed through computer servers located on tribal land, then that is enough to satisfy the requirements of the IGRA.
So even if the state legislature approves the agreement, and all indications are that they will, there could still be court action initiated to challenge the compact based on violations of the IGRA. The bottom line is that while sports betting is most likely on its way to the nation’s third most populous state, it might not be clear sailing for statewide mobile wagering.