New sports betting bill introduced in Florida

Lawmakers in the state of Florida have introduced new legislation that would legalise online and land-based sports betting.

Florida lawmakers are considering a new bill that would bring legal and regulated online and land-based sports betting to the state.

The bill

The proposed legislation, HB 1317, was introduced by Republican Representative Chip LaMarca and would authorise sports betting on professional and collegiate sporting events in the state of Florida.

The bill would allow Florida residents to participate in both online and land-based sports wagering. Florida residents would be able to bet on sports via approved mobile sports betting apps.

Under the legislation, sports wagering licences would be made available to pari-mutuel wagering facilities already approved by Florida’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. 

Existing tribal casino properties and professional sports venues would also be eligible for a licence.

The proposal does not state how much the licences would cost, or propose a tax rate for licenced operators. However, the bill does state that licences would need to be renewed on an annual basis.

Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would oversee the issuing of sports wagering licenses. 

HB 1317 is currently being considered by Florida’s House of Representatives. If successful, the bill would come into law from 1 October 2021.

Florida’s legislative session runs from 2 March 2021 to 30 March 2021 and if the bill is not passed, there will be the opportunity to extend the session. This will require a three-fifths vote by each side of the state legislature, or the possibility of a special session.

The sports betting situation in Florida

Since the fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, Florida lawmakers have made several attempts to bring sports betting to the state and all have failed.

Efforts to approve the activity in the state have fallen flat as a result of failed negotiations with the Seminole Tribe which operates several casinos under a compact with the state. Not only is the Tribe a major casino operator, but it is also a political force in Florida.

In addition to this, any attempt to legalise sports betting in Florida will need to contend with Amendment 3 which was passed in November 2018. Amendment 3 is a constitutional amendment that gives voters in Florida the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the state.”

This effectively removes the state’s elected officials from the decision-making process when it comes to the process of implementing casino gambling in the state’s establishments.

In 2019, Jeff Brandes, a state Senator from the Pinellas arena introduced three bills that would legalise sports betting in Florida. Under this bill, licences would cost $100,000 and operators would be taxed at a rate of 15%.

Brandes is expected to reintroduce the same trio of bills for the current legislative session.

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