Operators File Independent Initiative to Run Florida Sports Betting

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FanDuel and DraftKings have reportedly filed an independent initiative that could bring statewide mobile sports betting in Florida without the Seminole Tribe factor. Florida officials may announce the framework for a 2022 statewide mobile sports measure as early as this week, according to sources.

While the Seminole Tribe and the Sunshine State await federal approval of their gaming compact, the proposed initiative can give operators independent access to the Florida market that otherwise gives a monopoly to the tribe.

The initiative would allow the Seminole Tribe and others to offer online betting.

Further Details

The initiative has already been filed and the Florida of Division of Elections is expected to publish the ballot measure on Wednesday. According to sources, FanDuel and DraftKings have contributed a significant amount to the initiative campaign. In addition to these two sportsbook giants, Florida education interests are reportedly “hoping to be involved in a major way.”

The information will be made public in July when official funding reports are submitted.

However, Florida bettors will have to wait patiently until 2023, the earliest possible year to see legalized sports betting in the state.

Recent Developments

In May, Florida lawmakers legalized sports betting when they approved a new tribal gaming pact, allowing sports betting in the Sunshine State. The renegotiated compact would also allow mobile sports betting to run via servers on tribal land. The pact – signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the tribe – was then sent to the US Department of the Interior on May 26.

The federal agency has up to 45 days to approve the 75-page pact and to get it published in the Federal Register. The whole process may take up to 90 days. Many stakeholders believe the new gaming pact could face legal challenges.

Why Opposition to Seminole-State Pact?

The pact essentially gives the Seminole Tribe a monopoly on Florida sports betting, allowing bets to be made off reservation, through mobile devices, and at pari-mutuel facilities across the state. Seminole Tribe owns the Hard Rock Casino.

In other words, compact does not allow leading operators – like FanDuel and DraftKings – to run their own apps. Any push to get sports betting approved through the voters would enable them to own and operate their properties.

However, Bob Jarvis, an attorney, and professor at Nova Southeastern University law school believes that the Seminole-State pact will be approved by the federal authority and will win legal challenges (in case it faces any). Jarvis calls the operators-led initiative a “Plan B” by stakeholders in case the pact fails to see the light of the day.

“That actually pretty smart on the pat of FanDuel and DraftKings, given they don’t really care how Florida gets sports betting as long as it gets it. In all likelihood, both operators will do better financially under the initiative they have drafted than under the compact,” Jarvis said.

What Now?

It’s not clear if the pact will receive federal approval. In any case, the newest 2022 ballot initiative will be a win-win situation for a competitive sports betting environment and education advocates.

However, in any initiative to get on the ballot in Sunshine State, it requires 60% voters’ approval to pass, which. Jarvis believes it would be a challenge to muster that percentage if the initiative gets on the ballot. “There is a huge group of Floridians who are against any sort of gambling expansion.”

In 2018, the state voters passed Amendment 3 with 71% of the vote, according to which any new gambling in Florida (other than Indiana land) be approved by 60% of the voters. The Seminole Tribe – a primary sponsor of that amendment – argues the new compact does not violate that because the servers taking statewide bets would be placed on their lands.

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