Is Florida ready to legalize online sports betting?

Since the United States Supreme Court overturned an earlier ruling which effectively outlawed sports betting across America, the country has slowly opened up to the practice. Since 2018 when the new legislation was brought into force, we’ve seen online sportsbooks and physical sports betting halls start to appear.

The decision on whether to allow sports betting is left to the discretion of individual states. Some were quick to open up with few restrictions while others have been slower to react. At the same time, a number of states remain resolute in banning all forms of gambling.

Over on the east coast, it’s taken Florida some time to make their decision but the sunshine state is just starting to open up its physical and digital doors to the concept of sports betting.

The Backstory

In the majority of states, discussions on the potential legalization of gambling would take place in public hearings. Florida, however, had to be different with negotiations on the subject effectively taking place behind closed doors.

Crucial to the process were the Seminole Tribe: The Seminole Indians originated in Florida in the 18th century and remain prevalent in the state in the present day. Like a lot of similar tribes, land has the potential to be used for gambling purposes and the Seminoles have some influence in this area.

Following discussions between the tribe and State officials, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a significant agreement in April 2021. Under the terms of the compact, it was agreed that statewide mobile wagering would be permitted.

A Slow Start

2021 is the year that Florida natives will be able to stake on the NFL, consider the NCAA football odds market and bet on any other event that their sportsbook chooses to cover. Legislators approved the deal in May 2021 and the state is now open for business.

The Seminoles launched their Hard Rock sportsbook at the very beginning of November and are accepting initial registrations. Judging by social media reaction, business is expected to be brisk in these opening months and it’s almost certain that more sports betting sites will follow.

Weighing up the Pros and Cons

Like any state that has opened up to sports betting since 2018, Florida will have considered the advantages and disadvantages that the industry would provide. Additional revenue is one additional benefit and income figures in some areas of the United States make for impressive reading. Nevada leads the way in terms of revenue produced but all states involved in gambling produced multi-million dollar sums across 2020.

The sector can also create new jobs which will provide an obvious boost to Florida’s economy. Concerns will always be raised in relation to the potential social issues and that’s something that the State Governors will continue to monitor.

A Ready Fanbase

Is Florida ready for legalized sports betting? The state is mad about its sport with top level teams competing in all of the top leagues and associations across the US. Not every state in the union can boast an NBA team but Florida has two franchises playing at basketball’s top level.

The Miami Heat have won the NBA Championship on three separate occasions – in 2006, 2012 and 2013. Over in Orlando, the Magic have yet to win the biggest prize but they have enjoyed success at Conference level.

The NFL includes the Miami Dolphins on its roster and, while the team has struggled in recent years, they did win the Super Bowl twice in the early 1970s. Other sports teams for native Floridians to follow include Inter Miami and Orlando City from Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins.

With Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers flying the flag in the National Hockey League, there are many sports teams to follow. Wherever there is a demand for top class sport, it tends to follow that there will be interest in the betting markets too.

From that perspective, Florida is more than ready to welcome the new developments.

A Boost at Grass Roots Level

One other benefit that doesn’t get as much media attention is the boost that gambling revenue can give to sport at grassroots level. College football and basketball already have a huge following around the US but money from betting on the sport and possible sponsor deals could lift the interest.

Other, so-called minority events may also be in line for a boost. Cricket is one example of a sport that is slowly increasing in popularity and 2023 will see the debut of Major League Cricket. Funding is more urgently needed for niche sports that don’t have such an extensive following and this is one area where the gambling industry can possibly help.

Ready to Go?

Predictably, initial reaction to the new sportsbook in Florida has been mixed. In the main, however, it’s all very positive and early adopters look set to build a very strong customer base.

Dissenting voices remain and there are local groups protesting against the news. A question of whether the move to allow sports betting violates a constitutional amendment has been raised.

The process has, however begun and it’s unlikely that any protest group is going to stop its momentum. The entire state of Florida may not quite be ready for the advent of sports betting but many will welcome the move and there are clear positives attached to its introduction.

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