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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Sports Betting Compact, Setting Up Potential For Wagers By November

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would like to see Floridians with the capacity to place sports wagers by November. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

On May 25, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed five bills, which included CS/SB 2A – Implementation of the 2021 Gaming Compact Between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida. Governor DeSantis’ signature pushes forward a 30-year plan that includes the Seminole Tribe paying the State of Florida $2.5 billion annually over the next five years and giving the Seminole Tribe the ability to launch sports betting as of October 15.

While this is a major step forward for sports betting in Florida, it is not quite the end of the road, and the October 15 date is not set in stone. The next step will be for the U.S. Department of the Interior to review the compact and either agree to its terms or reject it. Separately, there is the expectation that lawsuits may be filed in an effort to block the compact from becoming effective.

A group called No Casinos has led the charge in claiming that the compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida violates a 2018 amendment, referred to as the Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative, which was approved by referendum by a vote of 71.47% in favor and 28.53% against. The amendment gave Florida voters the exclusive right to determine whether any expansion of casino gambling should be authorized, with some believing that the amendment’s reach includes sports betting.

“[Sports betting] expands gambling, because you’re going to be able to make sports bets at home and that’s not something you can do today,” said Rep. Randy Fine (R-Brevard County), who voted to approve the compact. “Whether it expands gambling legally or illegally as defined by amendment 3, that’s a legal question that will be answered.”

No Casinos has allegedly already threatened to challenge the compact in court, stating that allowing sports betting should be construed as an expansion of gambling and thus left to the voters to decide. If No Casinos gets its way, then sports betting would be tabled until 2022, when the question of whether to allow it within the State of Florida would be provided to voters by way of a referendum.

I have previously argued that Amendment 3 should not serve to block the Florida legislature from approving sports betting, as the legislature recently did by way of passing legislation concerning the compact with the Seminole Tribe. As I have noted, the amendment brought up by No Casinos did not expressly include sports wagering within the definition of casino gambling. My colleague Daniel Wallach has provided further depth on this particular issue.

Ultimately, it seems as though any court action intended to stop sports betting from being legalized based on the 2018 amendment will be futile. However, the Department of Interior still has an important role as to whether sports wagering becomes an option in or around October and, if so, whether it includes mobile wagering options. The Florida legislature previously recognized that there were questions surrounding whether the compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by allowing people to wager through their phones and computers while not technically on tribal land (a requirement under IGRA), and sought to address that in a question-and-answer document prior to voting on whether to approve the compact. The argument laid out was that the wagers will be received by servers and devices at the Seminole Tribe’s facilities, which are on Indian lands, and thus should be permitted under federal law.

The big question between now and October 15 is whether that theory will be supported by the Department of Interior and, if not, what that means for sports betting becoming legalized in Florida this year.

Written by Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner is the founder of Heitner Legal. He is the author of How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know, published by the American Bar Association, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. You can reach him by email at heitner@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @DarrenHeitner.

2 Comments

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  1. DeSantis, run for president. It will be a landslide.

    Clay, start setting aside a small amount of that fortune you just made for fundraising. (Kidding, not kidding)

    I will do my small part to make this happen as well. Every time I hear DeSantis speak I hear common sense and logic. Enough of the rest of America will hear this as well especially by the time the next election cycle comes around.

    Just think about the mantra “follow the science”… until we no longer agree with “the science” and then it is (for all intents and purposes): “follow the politics!”

    Why isn’t it important to figure out where the virus originated? Can you imagine if there were indications that it came from a US bioweapons lab? Or from a lab in Russia? You all know the answers to those questions.

  2. I’ve been following this over the past month or so.. Originally, I thought the compact was to include a limited number of skins (BetMGM, DK, FD, etc.) that would run their operations through the Seminole Indian Tribe, who would in turn collect a large portion of the profits. I don’t know if that has changed or if it was ever in consideration in the first place?

    Overall I’m happy we are finally on path to getting sports wagering but kinda sucks if the tribe has 100% exclusivity (i.e. complete lack of competition). Multiple books mean more competitive lines, wager bonuses, promotions, etc. Got stock in Draft Kings and MGM. Was hoping to see them enter the 3rd largest state by pop.

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