Online Betting Scrapped As FL Gambling Expansion Nears Ratification

florida state flag with blue sky
  • Updated 2021 Florida-Seminole gambling compact clears major congressional hurdle
  • Roulette, craps, and sports betting could be legalized Wednesday
  • FL online sports betting is officially off the table

Three weeks ago, Florida governor Ron DeSantis finally signed a new Class III gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe.

The 2021 compact – replacing the 2010 iteration that the state violated several years ago – allows for the tribe to host roulette and craps in its casinos, along with legal sports betting.

Online sports betting was not explicitly allowed for in the compact, however.

And for good reason.

The thinking behind the move – despite domestic US online sports betting being legalized in more than half of all states since the 2018 PASPA overturn – is basic economics.

Essentially, the Seminole oppose Internet-based sportsbook options due to their much larger interest in attracting players to tribal-operated brick-and-mortar facilities to bet sports and play – among other things – roulette and craps.

But apparently, the language of the final deal between FL and the Seminole Tribe didn’t specifically exclude online betting. The wording around the idea was deemed too nebulous for many state legislators.

Fortunately, that was all cleared up at the beginning of Monday’s special legislative session in Tallahassee, with House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) making an unexpected declaration just minutes into the proceedings:

“I am holding in my hand an addendum to the Seminole Compact, signed today by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and our governor, Ron DeSantis, which deletes from the compact any and all references to a conversation on statewide online casino gaming in the state of Florida.”

That, apparently, was enough to sway a significant number of Republican lawmakers, and it should lead to the inevitable – if not entirely uneventful – ratification of the Florida-Seminole compact on Wednesday.

In the lead-up to the special session, DeSantis explained part of the state’s motives for acting now to repair its gaming relationship with the Seminole.

“We…trust the Tribe to be the one doing this, rather than the stuff that’s offshore.”

Of course, many states have made various references to “offshore” gaming in their expansion measures, painting the international gambling industry as a sort of seedy bogeyman.

DeSantis very carefully chose those above words, you can be sure.

But it’s important to understand the state’s real motives, here.

Offshore gambling sites – like those online casinos, online sportsbooks, and online poker rooms we cover here – are not untrustworthy.

This industry has been serving US players for over 30 years, and the top brands have long established their legitimacy in the marketplace.

Instead, when DeSantis speaks of “trust,” he’s speaking in terms of a state-operator partnership. He might even be speaking in terms of the noun!

A trust, after all, is “an arrangement whereby one party holds property as its nominal owner for the good of one or more beneficiaries.”

Certainly, that fits the role of Seminole-owned gaming in all this.

But more directly, Florida simply “trusts” that the Seminole will generate a significant amount of money for state tax coffers. Profit-shares aren’t something to which offshore operators are beholden.

If Florida has to choose between $500 million a year or nothing at all, well…

Just follow the trust.