Is Sports Gambling Florida’s Future?

On Monday, May 14th, 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down a federal law that has banned sports gambling since 1992. The 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was determined to be unconstitutional since it did not allow New Jersey to change its sports gambling laws. This decision means that states can now choose to legalize and regulate sports gambling. Currently, there is only one state in the country where sports gambling is legal—Nevada.

There is certainly more at play here than the legality of sports gambling. The state of Florida currently has an agreement with the Seminole Tribe that assures the Tribe a monopoly on card games. This agreement was approved in 2010, but since then state legislators have struggled to renew the deal in full. Card games, slot machines, and casino games are currently prohibited in all but two Florida counties.

In April, Gov. Rick Scott made a deal with the Seminole Tribe that would guarantee payments to the state of Florida on a monthly basis. These monthly payments clock in at about $19.5 million. However, with the potential introduction of new kinds of gambling, the future of these agreements may be at risk. State legislators and the Tribe would have to be able to come to a fair compromise that benefits everyone. Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature does not meet again until March of 2019 and by that time, there will be a new governor and new legislators.

Proponents of sports gambling say Florida is the perfect place for it. Because of the state’s historic popularity as a tourist destination, there is a large influx of vacationers year-round. Many vacationers arrive with full wallets, ready to spend their money. Because of this, legalizing sports gambling could result in an economic boom for Florida. The state is also a destination for dog and horse racing, and these venues could greatly benefit from expanded gambling laws, increasing revenue all around.

Amendment 3 and Power to the People

In November, Florida voters will decide on Amendment 3-- a measure that would provide voters with exclusive rights to authorize casino gambling in the state. This puts the power to expand gambling and casino laws squarely in the hands of the people. If the amendment passes, the Florida Legislature would not be able to pass any statutes or constitutional amendments authorizing casino gambling. “Casino gambling” includes casino games, slot machines, and card games, but does not include wagering on horse or dog racing. The amendment would not have an effect on casino gambling that is a result of agreements between the state and the Seminole Tribe. If this legislation passes, the future of gambling in Florida will be up to its citizens.

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