Sports betting could become a reality sooner rather than later if a bill introduced by Chip LaMarca of the House of Representatives gets the green light. House Bill 1317 would give Floridians the opportunity to bet on professional or college sport, both online and at licensed facilities, and it could be passed as soon as October 2021.
A multi-billion dollar market
Since the US Supreme Court made its landmark decision to strike out PASPA a little less than three years ago, the US sports betting industry has been growing at exponential speed, with one state rapidly following another in legislative reform. Last October, the sector passed a new landmark, with Americans legally wagering more than $3 billion in a single month for the first time in history.
The sports betting steamroller is one that is only gathering pace and so far, 20 states have introduced legal sports betting in some form or other. Even traditionally conservative states like Texas no longer have the luxury of ignoring the substantial tax revenue that it can bring, and are giving serious consideration to legislative reform.
Big teams and major companies are forging the sort of partnerships that have been commonplace for decades in other parts of the world. For example, the contract drawn up between DraftKings and the Chicago Cubs is reputed to be worth something in the region of $100 million. The big-money deals also extend to franchises – the NBA now has data-sharing agreements in place with 20 sports betting operators and according to Senior Vice President Scott Kaufman-Ross, its ultimate goal is “to partner with every sportsbook in the United States.”
The time is right for legalization in Florida
With a population of 21.5 million people, The Sunshine State would be the most populous state yet to legalize sports betting. It was always a question of when, not if, the Florida domino would fall, and at the beginning of last year, most would have scoffed at the idea of it happening before the end of 2021. However, a lot has happened over the past 12 months or so.
Florida’s reliance on tourism – it is ranked fourth overall behind only Hawaii, Nevada and Montana – means the economic effects of the past year have been harsh. The state coffers are facing budget shortfalls of around $2.5 billion over the coming years, so any legislation that will provide extra revenue is going to be welcome. An industry insider at NoDepositWorld comments for our portal: “Florida legislation of online and retail sports betting could bring local economy hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and also thousands of well-paid jobs for people in Florida.”
There is more to this legislative reform than simply allowing Floridians to place bets on sporting events, though, core though that might be. It would also bring in spending from out of state and will therefore derive benefits from tax dollars that are otherwise being directed elsewhere.
Looking at Florida’s near neighbors, Louisiana has been the most recent to legalize, although sports betting is not yet active there, and Alabama has a bill going through its state senate at present. Even South Carolina, a state broadly expected to be among the least likely to legalize any form of gambling, has filed proposals to at least evaluate the possibility of legal sports betting. North Carolina and Virginia, meanwhile, already have established sports betting infrastructures in place.
LaMarca predicts that legal sports betting would generate tax revenue of at least $150 million per year – and that’s just to start with. He said this figure could easily double or even treble as participation increases and the legal betting infrastructure attracts businesses from immediate neighbors like Georgia and South Carolina who are slower off the mark. It is this sense of time being of the essence that makes legal reform before the year is out a genuine possibility.
There are actually three distinct bills that have been filed in connection with sports betting,
HB1317, HB1319 and HB1321. House Representative LaMarca is supported by Democratic Representative Anika Omphroy, who said last week “It is a privilege to file one of the three required pieces of legislation to bring legal sports wagering to Florida with Representative LaMarca.”
Despite the potential benefits, however, the legislation is not guaranteed a smooth run, due to the extra complication of the existing agreements in place with the Seminole tribe for casino gambling. Darren Heitner is a sports lawyer and the founder of South Florida-based Heitner Legal. He says it would be “naïve” to ignore the influence of the Seminole Tribe when comes to any aspect of gambling within the state of Florida, and added that they need to be part of the discussion from the outset.
Meanwhile, the bills are set to proceed through the State Senate over the coming months – we can only watch and wait.