Online sports betting can start Friday, it won’t

ORLANDO, Fla. — The ad from the Seminole Tribe of Florida showcases a woman extolling the benefits of the new gaming compact for the state and explaining what it does. However, when the ad gets to the topic of online sports betting, easily the most lucrative part of the deal, all the ad says is “soon”.

According to the compact, the tribe is allowed to start online sports betting on Friday, October 15, but that will not happen.

“The precedent here is so one-sided against the notion that you can have a compact to allow internet gambling to take place only on Indian land when the customers are located external to Indian land it is just nonsensical,” says attorney Daniel Wallach, a gambling law expert.

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Right now, a federal lawsuit is challenging a major part of the compact, specifically how online betting will take place.

Under the compact, the tribe would be allowed to offer online sports betting across the state as long as the computer servers that process the bets are physically located on the tribe’s land. When the Florida legislature crafted the compact, this method was selected as a way to circumvent the state constitution which prohibits any expansion of gambling without voter approval.

Unfortunately for the state, federal law and precedent takes into account where the gambler is physically located when they make their bet, according to Wallach. Because of this, it is expected that online sports betting may not be available in Florida without additional legislative action or statewide voter approval.

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“It’s not going to start,” says Wallach. “It’s either going to get invalidated by the federal court, or on appeal will be invalidated by a federal appeals court.”

DraftKings and FanDuel, two of the leaders in online sports betting, are currently backing a push for a statewide vote on the expansion of online sports betting, with a statewide vote possible as soon as 2022.

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Meanwhile, the Florida legislature could pass a law authorizing sports betting. However, such a law would be challenged due to possible violations of the Florida constitution which puts all expansions of gambling in the hands of voters, not the legislature.

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