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Sports betting in FL still nowhere near legalization

Florida sports betting far away

Currently, sports betting is not legal in the state of Florida. There have been some attempts to get it legalized, but nothing has come of it.  Those in favor of legalization argue that it would be a significant source of revenue for the state.

But, at the same time, those opposed say it would lead to increased crime and gambling addiction.  So far, there is no clear consensus on the issue, and it appears that sports betting in FL are still nowhere near legalization.

Are sports betting legal in Florida?

The answer to this is “No.” Sports betting in Florida has been put on hold, and there is no clear sign as to when sports betting will be allowed again in the Sunshine state. 

Offshore sportsbooks are the only option for Florida bettors

The state has a strict gambling law, which prohibits all types of sports betting. Unfortunately, this leaves Floridians with no legal options for betting on sports. 

However, several offshore sportsbooks accept bets from US residents. These books are located in countries where online gambling is legal, such as Costa Rica and Antigua.

Florida legalized sports betting in early 2021, under the supervision of the governor’s office of Ron DeSantis. The Seminole Tribe of Florida reached a gaming compact with the governor, which legalized sports gambling in the state of Florida for the next 30 years.

The deal would give the tribe a monopoly on the news industry. In addition, the Seminoles would be the only entity allowed to operate an online sportsbook. And any non-Seminole brick and mortar locations would be contracted vendors of the tribe.

Around the same time, the board of trustees of Florida para-mutual lotteries filed a lawsuit, forcing one of the tribes to begin an online sportsbook. At that point, the tribe launched the Hard Rock Sportsbook in November. It eventually became the first online sportsbook in the state.

A week later, a federal judge upheld the judicial ruling. Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the hub-and-spoke gambling model violated the U.S. Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Hard Rock Sportsbook closed business shortly after the judge ruled.

Florida casinos and sportsbooks: Where to bet on sports

If they have an itch for sports betting, there are six “tribal” casinos that bettors can visit, should the compact deal be reinstated. These casinos are: 

  • The Seminole Casino Brighton
  • Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
  • The Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee
  • Seminole Classic Casino Hollywood
  • The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
  • Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa

Before the compact went south, five pari-mutuel facilities agreed to be operators for sportsbooks in Florida:

  • Hialeah Park Racing & Casino
  • Ocala Gainesville Poker & Jai-Alai
  • Palm Beach Kennel Club
  • Tampa Bay Downs
  • TGT Poker & Racebook 

The legal battle over sports betting in Florida

After the US Supreme Court ruling legalized sports betting in the US in 2018, Florida took until the following year to fully sign on. Like other states, Florida has many influential players in the room regarding gambling-related issues.

Along with government officials, some of the most ardent supporters of taking the measures to legalize betting in 2018 that would have allowed for gambling activities to be legal were the voters. 

However, throughout 2019, legislators were occupied with other considerations and eventually began to forgo these bills and laws.  Here is a brief outline of what has happened from 2018 to the present day: 


Under the terms of the previous compact with the state government, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has made payments of $350 million per year since 2010.

However, the tribe wished to become the only single provider of banked card games within the state. Upset with the growth of gambling options available at pari-mutuel facilities, the tribe said it was willing to pay $500 million per year to prevent the variety of offerings.

Unfortunately for them, Gov. Ron DeSantis would not sign off on the new compact, and the Seminoles pledged to hold back the $350 million in payments to the state.


  • A few of the lawmakers rejected the tribe’s payments in protest. Some of them even considered taking action to shut down the group’s gaming operations in Florida.
  • Sen. Brandes was aware that the opportunity to put his three new bills into another session had passed, so he filed updated versions of them in February 2019. In 2019, political pressure from the Seminoles weakened Brandes’s bills.
  • As a result, the conversation then turned to negotiating a new compact. The new proposal included increased payment to the state from the Seminoles. Still, it also opened up the possibility of the tribe authorizing the state the right to authorize legal sports betting in the state. Meanwhile, the tribe’s desire to stop the pari-mutuel games was founded.


  • As the week progressed, it was clear that the compact plan was gathering a lot more support, but there were still unanswered questions about the new budget.
  • DeSantis signed the new compact into law in the final week before April 30 passes for career growth terminations. The body then met for a special session in May to vote on the pact with the Seminoles.
  • DeSantis’ signature authorized the compact to go to the United States Department of the Interior for its evaluation.


  • The tribe and the DOI have appealed the ruling and await a decision. Meanwhile, efforts to gain a new betting initiative on the November ballot faltered despite favorable support and lobbying efforts from DraftKings and FanDuel.
  • Despite the failure of the sports betting initiative to get on the ballot in 2022, it appears there is growing support for it in the next election cycle. The Havenick family, who own two pari-mutuels and initiated the first lawsuits against the gaming compact, donated $4 million to Florida Education Champions in mid-April.
  • The team behind Florida Education Champions led signature-gathering efforts for the sports betting ballot initiative. The combined sum they received through FanDuel and DraftKings from initiatives was $37.5 million.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of options for offshore sportsbooks

Offshore sportsbooks offer various betting options, including point spreads, totals, moneylines, and prop bets. They also offer a wide range of markets, including NFL, NBA, MLB, and NCAA basketball and football. In addition to the wide selection of markets, offshore books offer better odds than most US-based books.

Before 2018, the only state where you could legally bet on sporting events at the sportsbook was a Nevada casino. The Supreme Court subsequently overturned PASPA, which made state-regulated sports betting possible.

But some bettors continued to place their bets with offshore agencies earlier than the historic ruling. And since the Hard Rock Sportsbook is no longer an option, Florida patrons have pursued what they remembered.

These operators will let you bet on almost anything

Offshore operators will let you bet on almost anything — from the outcome of reality TV shows to the results of presidential elections.

One of the benefits of using an offshore sportsbook is that they offer a much more comprehensive betting option than traditional bookmakers. So if you’re looking to place a wager on something not covered by your local bookie, an offshore site is your best bet.

Another advantage of using an offshore sportsbook is that they often have higher betting limits than their domestic counterparts. This can be especially beneficial for high rollers looking to place larger bets.

Legal markets generally set the rules as to what can be bet on. For example, bettors aren’t permitted to bet on in-state college athletics in some states.

The sites can sometimes have shady deposit and withdrawal methods

There are a few offshore sportsbooks that have shady deposit and withdrawal methods.  Some of these sites will ask you to wire money, which can be dangerous because it’s very difficult to get your money back if something goes wrong. 

Other sites will ask you to use a pre-paid debit card, which can be risky because the site can steal your money.  At present, offshore books often require Bitcoin, mainly as the exclusive cryptocurrency, to deposit or withdraw funds.

The cryptocurrency’s decentralized nature lets offshore books evade conventions with U.S. banking authorities. They can bet directly from their customers without asking for the services of an intermediary.

Interacting directly with the sportsbook does not necessarily indicate that it is a bad thing. For example, you do that when you go to a sportsbook and provide cash.

Florida needs an alternative

The Sunshine State is one of the biggest gambling hubs in the US, but a large chunk of that business comes from illegal sports betting. Florida lawmakers have been trying to legalize sports betting for years, but the effort has stalled repeatedly.

There are a few reasons why it’s been tough to pass sports betting in Florida. For starters, there’s a lot of money at stake for the casinos and other gambling interests in the state. 

Florida needs an alternative to betting that does not involve the risks associated with gambling. Many other options could provide a similar experience, such as fantasy sports or investing in stocks. Florida lawmakers should consider these options as they work to create a new gambling bill.