Featured in this article:
  • Florida's 2021 gambling compact is valid.
  • Legal sports betting in Florida can begin on October 15.
  • Legal and political challenges to the Seminole Tribe's exclusive sports betting license remain.

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The Department of the Interior cleared the 2021 Florida gambling expansion compact with the Seminole Tribe. The lack of action by the government clears the way for Florida to revamp its approach to gambling. For example, legal sports betting may begin as soon as October 15.

Governor Ron DeSantis considers the new tribal compact a signature achievement, but federal approval was not guaranteed. Opponents of the new compact and gambling in general will now attempt to circumvent DeSantis by appealing directly to courts and the voters.

What Does This Mean for Florida Gambling Expansion?

The new gambling compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe calls for a minimum $500 million annual payment from the Seminoles to the state. In exchange, the Tribe receives the exclusive right to act as a hub of sports betting in the state. Additionally tribal casinos can offer the full suite of table games for the first time. This will bring roulette, craps, and other games to Florida casino floors.

Hard Rock Casino Hollywood

The Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock Casino Hollywood will benefit from the Florida gambling expansion.

What will it mean for the Seminole Tribe to be the center of Florida sports betting? The Seminoles will be able to host retail sportsbooks at each of their casino locations. Outside of the tribal casinos, operators of pari-mutuel betting locations can contract with the Seminoles to host sportsbooks at their facilities.

However, the biggest win for the Tribe is in mobile and online betting. Anyone of age located in Florida will be able to place a wager through their computer or an app on their phone. But all online betting will be routed through servers on Seminole property. This is why the Tribe is referred to as “the hub” of sports betting.

Why Was Approval of the Tribal Compact Questionable?

Federal law requires all Native American gambling activities to occur on tribal land. The Florida compact was the first to propose hosting servers counted as gaming on tribal land. Though the actual bettor may be located anywhere in Florida, the bet itself will be recorded and processed at the Seminole casinos.

Regulators at the Department of the Interior determined that mobile betting “should not be an impediment to tribes participating in the gaming industry.” The government did not officially approve the compact. Instead, by taking no action during the 45-day review period, the compact became valid.

What’s Next for Florida Gambling Expansion?

The Seminole Tribe will now look to sign partners to run sports betting from their casinos. Most likely, negotiations have already commenced with all the major sportsbooks operators. With retail and online betting allowed to start on October 15, background work will be crucial to a successful launch.

Miami Jai Alai

Pari-mutuels like Jai Alai frontons can soon host sportsbooks.

Next, the Tribe will hear from interested pari-mutuel operators who want to run their own sportsbooks. By law, the Tribe must have at least three partner pari-mutuels within three months of regulated sports betting beginning.

The Seminole Tribe will also update its facilities to host retail sportsbooks and all the new table games. Some of these changes will be simple, while dedicated sportsbook facilities may require major renovations.

Gambling opponents still believe this entire Florida gambling expansion process violated Amendment Three. The 2018 referendum supposedly gave Florida voters the final say on approving any new gambling in the state. Legal challenges are likely, though as of now most experts do not believe they will delay implementation of the new compact.

Finally, looming on the horizon is a 2022 referendum to remove most barriers to Florida legalized sports betting. Though not yet approved for the ballot, the plan would be to bypass the Seminole Tribe and end their exclusive sports betting hub operation. The measure is being backed by some of the largest online sportsbook operators in America. So, it will be interesting to watch if these operators are now shut out of the Seminole Tribe’s upcoming sportsbook launch.

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro GambleOnline.co about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virgina and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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