Florida Bettors Would Have Won ‘Tens of Millions’ From Sportsbooks This Postseason Had Wagering Been Legal
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Pennsylvania sportsbooks were flush with cash after the Eagles lost the Super Bowl thanks to the fact that Philly fans disproportionately bet on the Eagles. The script might have been flipped this month for sportsbooks in Florida — had the practice been legalized.
With the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers in the Finals, sportsbooks saved themselves millions and millions of dollars thanks to the fact that sports betting is tied up in Florida courts.
For a brief 21 days in 2021, Hard Rock Sportsbook was live in Florida. Since then, bettors in the state have been unable to place legal bets after a court vacated the state's betting compact. The Seminole Tribe — which owns Hard Rock — subsequently sued, and the litigation battle will persist for at least a few more years, said legal sports betting legislation expert Daniel Wallach, who expects the case to make it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The high court might consider ruling on the case because it involves the question as to whether gambling sovereignty on Native American lands applies to the digital landscape," Wallach said. "This issue impacts both tribal and non-tribal gaming operators throughout the country, and is not limited just to Florida."
So, sportsbooks were saved this year. The sportsbook exposure on both the Heat and Panthers would have been exorbitant because both teams had long odds throughout the entire season and through the playoffs.
The Heat and the Panthers were the worst teams in in their respective conferences and were underdogs in each of their series. The Heat had to beat the Bucks, the Knicks and the Celtics, while the Panthers had to beat the Bruins, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.
Miami was as long as +800 to beat the Bucks in the first round. The Panthers had been +275 to beat the Bruins, +145 vs. the Maple Leafs and +135 to beat the Hurricanes.
Before the start of the playoffs, tickets on the Heat to win the Eastern Conference were as long as +3000. The Panthers had been as bad as +2000.
"The Florida teams winning, given the odds they had, would put sportsbooks in a really bad position," said DraftKings director of trading Johnny Avello. "But that's only if they didn't have national exposure like us where things balance out."
Take the Panthers, for example, at a national sportsbook like BetMGM.
Right before the season, 2.3% of the total Stanley Cup pool was on the Panthers. That number dropped to 1% throughout the season and only up to 5.7% before the Finals, when only two teams stood.
This past Super Bowl, the Eagles were the first team from a legal sports betting state to play in the Big Game and $29.7 million was kept by the sportsbooks after payouts on an $84.3 million total handle. Avello says the Super Bowl betting pool trumps the combined NBA and NHL Stanley Cup winner pools, but if Florida had sports gambling the losses would have been in the "tens of millions of dollars" for the sportsbooks doing business within the state.
"There would have been a lot of people down there putting $5, $10, $20, $30 on the Heat and Panthers throughout the season," Avello said. "When you have the odds so high for so long, that adds up."
But Wallach downplays the notion that Hard Rock would have been hurt much in this scenario.
"They are huge," he said. "Given the Seminole Tribe's enormous land-based casino revenues annually in Florida– measured in billions and none of that is shared with the state — it's almost like a rounding error for the Seminole Tribe."