FL To Expand Gambling, But Real-Money Apps Are Off The Table

chief osceola and renegade at fsu seminoles game

At the end of 2020, Michigan made waves by launching sports betting and iGaming together.

That was (and is) newsworthy because states with real-money sports betting are (getting to be) a dime a dozen, while real-money gambling apps are still largely the domain of legitimate offshore betting sites.

However, a handful of states have taken the extra initiative to legalize iGaming, and MI is the latest to have done so.

Still, it will be a long time before legal online casino games catch up to the presence that mobile sports betting has established in the United States since the PASPA overturn in 2018.

One reason for this is that online casino gambling is still viewed as a “risky proposition” for more conservative states, especially those that have limited retail gambling opportunities to begin with.

Another reason is that many states are concerned that such amusements would cannibalize their state-run lottery businesses.

Frankly, until iGaming is viewed as a political and economic net gain, it’ll be an uphill battle for states to break into the online casino market.

However, there’s another consideration in many states that is often overlooked.

Take Florida, for example.

The state is gambling-friendly and is home to the third-largest population of residents in the US. In addition, a disproportionate number of those residents are seniors, who tend to enjoy gambling at a higher rate than the general public.

Plus, Florida has numerous popular, championship-level professional and amateur teams, each with rabid, betting-hungry fanbases.

Yet FL doesn’t have sports betting or online casino gambling.

Why not?

Tribal exclusivity is the answer.

And while we’re not arguing against tribal exclusivity when it comes to real-money domestic gambling (we actually rather enjoy tribal venues over typical commercial casinos), in the many states where real-money gaming is the sole domain of recognized tribes, the slow adoption of any online gambling – whether mobile casino gaming, mobile sports betting, or mobile online poker – is going to be a reality.

In Florida – as in most states – the holdup is in how the state approaches legalization without antagonizing or violating the rights of the tribes in question. In the Sunshine State, that’s the Seminole.

Several years ago, FL violated its compact with the Seminole Tribe when it allowed non-Seminole venues to operate third-party-banked card rooms.

A federal judge ruled as much, and since 2018, the Seminoles have withheld upwards of $400 million in annual slot machine revenue that would have otherwise gone to the state under the terms of the compact.

To get sports betting legalized, FL lawmakers have had a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that more would have to be offered to the Seminole.

Recompense for violating the compact – in the form of expanded gambling rights for the tribe – would have to come with any proposal to legalize sports betting.

Sports betting would also have to be made an exclusive function of the Seminole Tribe, and the card rooms that caused the compact drama in the first place would need to be addressed.

This has taken years, but it’s finally reported that a resolution has been agreed to between the Seminole and the state.

According to sources, Governor Ron DeSantis and his team of FL lawyers are putting the final touches on an agreement that could be announced any day now.

Per these sources, here’s what’s going to happen:

The Seminole Tribe and the state will re-enter into a binding compact, giving the tribe the right to host sports betting lounges at its six casino venues in the state.

Additionally, the state will revise the Class III terms of the old compact to reflect a new set of approved games, including roulette and craps, which the Seminole have been lobbying for over the last several years.

Finally, the Seminole themselves are reported to have accepted that non-Seminole card rooms may continue to operate as they currently do. Further, these venues may also host sports betting kiosks, but the Seminole will receive a split of all sports betting profits from these locations, effectively turning them into satellite sportsbooks for the tribe.

What the new agreement will not have, however, is online sports betting.

The reason for this is straightforward, and it’s an issue that isn’t unique to FL: The tribal casino interests in the state oppose online sports betting because it has the potential to siphon off customers of the casinos themselves.

Especially now that the Seminole will finally be able to offer roulette and craps (which are big moneymakers for gambling facilities, settling in right behind slots and blackjack), the tribe wants as many customers as possible to come for the sports betting and stay for the other amusements on tap.

That’s just good business.

That said, it’s not completely out of the question that domestic online sports betting will eventually come to FL.

But what does seem to be a nonstarter is for said sports betting to arrive in a vacuum.

Instead, the pastime will only move online once casino gambling is allowed to, as well. Only then will the risk of market loss be mitigated enough for the Seminole that they’ll approve of the online model (albeit still exclusively for their own operation).

And that, again, could be years in the offing.

Of course, if you’re not interested in brick-and-mortar gambling – or live out of the way of a convenient Seminole casino (or satellite sportsbook) – you don’t actually have to wait for domestic online gambling to be legalized inside state borders.

Right now, you can legally join any reputable real-money gambling site operating internationally, all of which offer full stables of random number generation (RNG) online slots, table games, live dealer games, sportsbooks, and online poker rooms.

Florida is definitely taking a step in the right direction, but the convenience factor won’t be able to match the existing overseas gaming market any time soon.

Source: Miami Herald