Florida Sports Betting Measure Would Permit Statewide Mobile, Stadium Sportsbooks
Scott Halleran/Getty Images. Pictured: Florida’s state flag.
Florida bettors could wager from mobile devices statewide as well as professional sports venues under a proposed ballot measure published Thursday.
The measure would permit legal statewide, mobile sports betting if it is approved for next year’s ballot and subsequently ratified by voters. Home to more than 23 million residents, Florida would be the most-populated state with legal online sports betting.
If approved by voters, the state’s professional sports venues as well as pari-mutuel facilities could also open sportsbooks. Florida would join Illinois, Arizona, Maryland and Washington D.C. among jurisdictions to approve legal in-stadium sportsbooks.
The measure, backed by leading sportsbook operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings as well as Florida education interests, would go to voters ahead of the November 2022 ballot. If approved, all taxes would go to the state Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.
The measure prohibits bettors under age 21. The Florida Legislature would have to pass ensuing regulations. A 2018 ballot measure prohibits lawmakers from passing any casino gaming legislation without voter approval on an ensuing referendum, but some legal analysts believe sports betting falls outside those restrictions.
The proposal published by the Florida Division of Elections Thursday also allows Native American tribes with a Florida gaming compact to offer sports betting. The Seminole Tribe of Florida struck a 30-year compact deal with the state government earlier this year that would authorize sports betting, if approved by federal officials.
The Seminole’s deal allowed additional third-party sportsbook operators to enter the state through a revenue-sharing deal between the Seminoles and parimutuel facilities such as horse track and jai alai frontons. Seminole gaming officials said DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Barstool Sportsbook and other top operators had inquired about partnerships.
This ballot measure would be a way around those deals and would almost assuredly give commercial operators better operating terms than a Seminole partnership.
Florida Law requires nearly 900,000 verified signatures, which is eight percent of votes cast in the prior presidential election, for the measure to appear on the 2022 ballot. The measure also requires an eight percent threshold in 14 of Florida’s 27 current congressional districts.
Sources behind the measure told the Action Network earlier in the week they will “be off to the races” garnering signatures after the initiative is formalized by the Division of Elections. If approved for the 2022 ballot, Florida law requires 60 percent supermajority support for initiatives to pass.
The initiative is sponsored by the Florida Education Champions political committee. Tallahassee-based political consultant David Johnson, who has worked on campaigns for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Senate Minority Whip John Thune among other high-profile politicians, is the initiative’s chairperson.
DraftKings, FanDuel and other operators have spent millions of dollars on sports betting ballot measures in other states and will almost assuredly contribute millions more in what would be the nation’s largest legal wagering market. The initiative, which would direct sports betting dollars to educational purposes, already has the backing of Florida education groups.
High-profile anti-gambling groups such as No Casinos, which opposes the Seminole compact, will likely work on the “no” campaign.
New commercial sports betting opportunities would threaten the Seminole’s de facto sports betting monopoly. The tribe spent millions on the 2018 casino gaming restriction ballot measure as well as a media blitz supporting the 2021 compact.
Disney, which also invested millions in the 2018 gaming restriction initiative, is a part-owner in DraftKings, and it remains to be seen what role it would take in the new sports betting measure.