The Sunshine State has long marketed itself as a welcoming slice of paradise to would-be tourists. However, historically, it’s been anything but for the expansion of non-tribal gaming interests.
Little traction for commercial gaming expansion
The daily fantasy sports industry has found that out first-hand in recent years. The Florida legislature has attempted to pass bills expressly legalizing DFS in three consecutive sessions, with the current effort part of an omnibus gaming bill that also includes a proposed new compact with the state’s powerful Seminole Tribe.
One of the main stumbling blocks for DFS legislation has been centered on whether it’s officially considered a gambling activity. If it is, that would qualify legalizing it as an expansion of Internet-based gaming in the state, something the current compact specifies is cause for a reduction or cessation of hundreds of millions in payments the Seminole Tribe makes into state coffers annually.
Florida sports betting chances murky at present
Of course, there’s no such ambiguity when it comes to sports betting, meaning that presumably, it would potentially have to be limited to brick-and-mortar sportsbooks if it were to avoid running afoul of the current agreement.
Just keeping the present revenue-sharing agreement uninterrupted proved challenging enough for legislators. Last month, they were able to come to an agreement on extending the tribe’s current commitment to its monthly payments of approximately $19.5 million until May 2019.
That’s good news on one end of the gaming spectrum.
- The extra time provides the two parties a chance to resolve pending issues related to banked “designated player” card games being offered at pari-mutuel facilities that the tribes believe infringe on their exclusivity (which caused the previous revenue-sharing agreement to technically lapse on March 31).
- It also will allow further discussions regarding the implementation of slot machines in counties outside of Miami-Dade and Broward where voters have already approved them.
However, the development doesn’t equate to much for Florida sports betting interests, at least on the surface. That admittedly could change if legislators attempt to include a provision regarding potential future sports betting legislation into a renegotiated version of the existing compact that would also address the aforementioned issues. However, there doesn’t seem to be any movement in that direction at present.
Fundamental change in future Florida gaming expansion could be imminent
Another major development regarding gambling interests in Florida is Amendment 3, set to be voted on during November 2018 mid-terms.
The measure would change the state constitution to stipulate that any future casino gambling expansion would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters, as opposed to being decided on by legislators. Amendment 3 has some heavyweight backers that make for strange bedfellows.
Disney has reportedly contributed at least $4.7 million to the political action committee spearheading it, Voters in Charge. The Seminoles – which would be potentially further insulated from competition from commercial gaming establishments if the measure passed — are the second-largest donor.
As currently written, Amendment 3 wouldn’t affect any potential future sports betting legislation, as the activity does not fall under its definition of “casino gambling”. However, the fact it received more than enough signatures to get on the ballot and has some considerable money behind it is a tangible reminder that there is still an anti-gambling contingent in the state.
Naturally, if the Seminole Tribe expressed an interest in eventually implementing sportsbooks at their Hard Rock-themed facilities throughout the state, that would likely be a game-changer. That would seem likely given that the tribe is already expected to open a sportsbook in New Jersey via the Hard Rock property in Atlantic City.
If Amendment 3 passes, sports betting might soon be one of the few remaining forms of gaming that Florida legislators may still have the power to authorize by 2019, and that they may be able to reach achieve synergy with the Seminole Tribe on.
This story was originally published on April 19, 2018