In wake of the Seminole Gaming Compact’s dissolution, the Florida Senate voted to establish a new gaming commission to better regulate gambling across the state, passing by a margin of 37-2 on the Senate floor.
The proposal, Senate Bill 2510 (SB 2510) seeks to implement a new gaming commission that would shift aging regulation from one state department (Department of Business and Professional Regulation) to a new decision that deals with pari-mutuels wagering. With the new Senate approval, the new regulatory overhead division will consist of a five-person Senate-discretionary group.
Though the bill received overwhelming support, some, including Sen. Jeff Brandes are critical of the measure.
“Is this the best job in the state of Florida? To be on the gaming commission,” quipped Brandes. “You definitely have to do more work as a Senator than you would on the commission. What is the gaming commission do now that there’s no compact? Do they have a real job? Just to be clear, their job now is to manage backroom card games and cock fights in Miami?”
“They are going to set up that new agency, and depending on the results of the court decision, have to make sure they’re regulating the old compact,” said Sen. Travis Hutson, who read the bill on the floor.
In anticipatory measures, Gov. Ron DeSantis has already appointed 3 of the 5 commission members: Julie Brown, former Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Secretary alongside 2 former executives, Charles Drago and Michael Yaworsky, according to the governor’s office.
A federal judge, Judge Dabney Friedrich, ruled in November that the Compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida was in violation of federal law, declaring that the ability to place bets from anywhere in the state through a Seminole Tribe betting app violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) that allows betting only on tribal lands.
While federal regulators approved the Compact, it was met with a litany of legal challenges and opposition, including challenges from No Casinos, a group that successfully passed a constitutional amendment restricting new gaming expansions in the state without voter approval. Other casino operators in the state have also argued that their business would be harmed by what amounted to a statewide expansion of gaming, in direct violation of that constitutional amendment.
The 30-year gaming compact allowed the Seminoles exclusive rights to online sports betting in Florida, as well as expanded gaming privileges, in exchange for at least $2.5 billion over the first five years.
Friedrich opined that the only way sports betting could garner legal footing within the state outside of tribal lands is through citizen initiative.
With the compact dead on arrival, bettors in Florida will have to wait until 2024 for the possibility of betting legality to appear on ballots. Despite the bleak outlook, DraftKings, a leading sports betting agency, has high hopes.
“We are very encouraged, however, by the over one million individuals who signed petitions in less than eight months, which shows that Floridians do want the opportunity to vote on a competitive mobile sports betting market in the state,” DraftKings CEO Jason Roberts told shareholders during an earnings call. “And if we were to refile, we are very confident that given the extended timeframe, we will be able to qualify for the 2024 ballot.”