Sports betting is gaining traction in many parts of the US, with legalization being embraced in states such as New Jersey and Washington in recent years.
Florida is an interesting contrast to this trend, as the state has a complex relationship with gambling activities of all kinds, and while sports betting has yet to be legalized there, this may not be the case for too much longer.
The question, then, is whether there is sufficient demand for sports betting in Florida to make it worthy of legalization. Here is a deeper dive into this matter, which should hopefully provide a satisfactory answer to any Floridians who are hoping for a change in legislation soon.
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Exploring the state of play
When it comes to rules regarding Florida sports betting, explained here, there is only one exception to the otherwise blanket ban on this type of gambling activity; horse racing.
So long as you can get to one of the bricks and mortar tracks, including famous venues like the Tampa Bay Downs Racecourse, you can not only place wagers on the outcome of events happening live in person, but also on other races taking place elsewhere worldwide.
Likewise there are other kinds of gambling which are legal in certain places, such as at the handful of high profile casinos that are based on tribal land and thus exempt from other state-wide regulations.
The problem is that betting on other sporting events, and gambling of any kind in other contexts outside of regulated land-based casinos, is either explicitly prevented under state law, or exists in a grey area that can create complications for players.
Coping with losses
In terms of demand for legalizing sports betting in Florida, it is first worth looking at how lawmakers may be motivated to move forwards with this process, irrespective of the levels of interest from the broader public.
Specifically the fact that $350 million in tax revenue generated by tribal casinos is being lost annually as a result of the state’s failure to adhere to an existing agreement is leaving the public coffers considerably lighter.
This major loss, which is ongoing for the time being, is causing decision-makers to look into other ways of recouping cash from the gambling industry, and legal sports betting seems to be an obvious answer.
Indeed sports betting could be the olive branch that legislators extend to the tribes that they have mistreated, and it may be that casinos are the first places to offer a bricks and mortar wagering experience for residents of and visitors to the state of Florida.
This is still dependent on bills being passed, and there are always opponents to the legalization of gambling activities to contend with, but it certainly seems like there is political will behind this movement, which is a step in the right direction.
The online issue
It is all well and good for state lawmakers to be incentivized to introduce sports betting at casinos, but this is not something which the vast majority of locals will be able to take advantage of on a regular basis.
This is where the call for the legalization of online sports betting services is gaining traction, and there is clear evidence that there is demand for this type of solution amongst consumers.
The most compelling reason to legalize it is that a number of sports betting sites already cater to bettors from Florida, and because there is legal ambiguity surrounding the legality of this, it is perfectly possible for people to place wagers while using sites that are based in other parts of the world.
The fact that people are willing to risk either losing cash to a sportsbook site that is not regulated by Florida’s authorities, or even suffer legal repercussions for the act of placing a bet in this way in the first place, proves that demand for legalization is strong.
Moreover, if online sports betting was brought to the table in Florida, it would be an even more potent source of tax revenue generation and could help to boost the local economy, alongside other relief efforts.
Florida could follow in the footsteps of other states and insist that only casino operators with a land-based presence were able to create online sports betting sites, which would certainly appease any tribal casinos that might have fears about losing out in the case that this market was legitimized.
The upshot of all this is that legal sports betting in Florida has never been closer to becoming a reality; the only tricky part now is predicting exactly when the change will come.