Will Florida Finally Reach a Casino, Sports Betting Deal?

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Legislature has the final say

Last Friday, April 23rd, Governor Ron DeSantis announced a long-awaited gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida. The last compact was signed in 2010, but hasn’t been in effect since 2019.

Though these two parties have agreed to the terms, the legislature must still ratify the compact and pass implementing legislation. Rather than rush a vote on a complex 70 page compact, House Speaker Chris Sprowls has indicated that the chambers will adjourn as usual and come back for a special session around May 17th. The regular 2021 legislative session is scheduled to end this Friday, April 30th.

Highlights of the 2021 Seminole Tribe gaming compact:

  • Requires the state to engage in good-faith negotiations with the Tribe within three years to amend the compact to allow online and mobile gaming (“e-gaming”), which could be one of the largest expansions of gaming in any state.
  • Legalizes mobile sports betting, which will be run exclusively through the Seminole Tribe in a “hub-and-spoke” model, whereby each pari-mutuel facility can contract with an online sports vendor. However, given the way the compact is written, online sports betting vendors are likely to be shut out.
  • Guarantees the state a minimum revenue-share of $2.5 billion over the first five years of the compact.
  • Allows pari-mutuel facilities to provide designated player games without having to offer jai-alai, harness, or quarter horse racing (known as “decoupling”).
  • Authorizes two new casinos on Seminole Tribe property, allowing for Vegas-style destination resorts.

It is unclear whether/how much of the compact violates a November 2020 state constitutional amendment that requires all expansion of gaming to go before the voters. If passed as is, there is likely to be litigation with the state.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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