Influencer Poll Shows Legal Florida Sports Betting Unlikely For 2019

Influencer Poll Shows Legal Florida Sports Betting Unlikely For 2019TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A recent Influencer Poll from Clear View Research shows that legal Florida sports betting is unlikely to be passed into law during the 2019 legislative session. The poll, composed of responses from 145 of Florida’s “top lobbyists, consultants, political operatives and data wonks,” offers a harsh reality check for eager Sunshine State sports bettors.

Released last week, the poll covers a number of topics, though sports betting legalization is trending high in the public consciousness. Florida, home to an estimated three to five million avid sports bettors, could certainly use the infrastructural boost that taxes on legal sports betting revenue would provide, but any expanded gambling initiatives appear to be on the backburner for the time being.

When asked whether 2019 would be “the year that sports betting is finally made legal in Florida,” only two out of 139 respondents (one Democrat and one Republican) believed legalization to be a sure thing. Those claiming there was a solid chance of it numbered 23 (eight Democrats, 13 Republicans, 2 NPA), and those believing that there’s little chance of passage numbered an overwhelming 72 (18 Democrat, 46 Republican, 8 NPA). A further 42 respondents (17 Democrat, 23 Republican, 2 NPA) gave Florida sports betting legalization zero chance of passage this year.

By the numbers, 114 out of 139 political insiders in the state -- or 82% of respondents -- are not counting on any progress re sports betting in Florida during this legislative session. Their rationale is varied, but the most common concern among those betting against passage is that creating any law without a voter referendum would go against the express wishes of (and compacts with) the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Seminole Tribe has exclusive gambling rights in the state.

Passed in November 2018, Amendment 3 requires that “Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize” any casino gambling that is not already legal. This was supported by both the Seminole Tribe and Disney, and it’s intended to curb gambling expansion in the state. While “sports betting” does not necessarily constitute “casino gambling” by definition, it falls into a gray area.

As one influencer explains, the state’s state representatives are hesitant to antagonize the Seminole Tribe in any capacity as regards its exclusivity. Thus, a reworked tribal compact is likely going to be the first step towards sports wagering legalization. That will take time, and it is not without its own issues.

“[The] Seminole Compact agreement with the state...allows the tribe to pull the plug on the huge multimillion dollar cut of their take that goes to the state...if the state allows competition against their exclusivity on certain types of gambling,” the influencer, speaking anonymously, said.

The financial risk (and political risk) is too great for most Florida congresspersons to move ahead on establishing legal Florida sports betting without the consent and approval of both the voters and the Seminole Tribe. While similar scenarios are playing out in other states, Florida is by far the largest gaming and betting market to have this particular issue.

Sports wagering is definitely coming to Florida in the future, but bettors will likely have to wait at least another year before it does.

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