After months of planning, a new gaming compact, a false start, U.S. District Court judge opinions and a failed ballot initiative to bring online sports betting to the masses, only one question remains.

What now for Florida sports betting?

Florida Education Champions’ failure to procure signatures to place their voters’ initiative on the 2022 general election ballot has left a chasm in the hopes of Floridians who believed they’d have a chance to legalize retail and online sports betting in the state.

Now, with several avenues of legalization having dried up, the Sunshine State has only a few remaining options to bring sports betting to its residents.

New Florida sports betting ballot initiative

Despite the failure to find a place on the 2022 general election ballot, another citizens’ voting initiative may be the best option to bring sports betting to the state. However, Florida Education Champions’ spokesperson Christina Johnson said the group can not attempt another initiative until at least 2024.

If it had been placed on the 2022 ballot, Florida voters would have been able to approve or deny a motion to legalize sports and event betting under Florida law at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities. Additionally, it would have approved online sports betting throughout the state for qualified sportsbooks and Native American tribes with a Florida gaming compact.

Sen. Jeffrey Brandes (R-26), a proponent of sports betting and the author of a 2020 sports betting bill, said Floridians in favor of legalized sports betting should pin their hopes on this avenue of legalization.

“A citizen’s initiative is 100% the hope here,” Brandes said.

A citizen’s initiative could also break the stranglehold the Seminole Tribe have on sports betting in the state. An initiative could open the state up to third-party private companies, such as DraftKings or FanDuel.

The Seminole Tribe will likely lose their monopoly on Florida sports betting in the future, Brandes said, but when and how will be up to Florida voters.

“I don’t know when it will change, but I think it is very likely that outside groups will gain a foothold here,” he said.

It’s a sobering reality, as the first attempted citizen’s initiative failed after acquiring only about 50% of the required valid signatures. If an initiative is placed on the 2024 ballot and approved by voters, sports betting would not launch in Florida until 2025

And will a group take up the initiative process again? DraftKings and FanDuel both backed the Florida Educations Champions failed initiative to the tune of more than $30 million. Will sportsbook companies be eager to donate more money to an initiative that will be left to the whim of the Florida voters? The state will have to wait until 2024 to see if that’s again a possibility.

New Florida sports betting legislation

There is nothing stopping a Florida lawmaker from introducing a bill to legalize sports betting in the state, but such a maneuver will likely be met with several challenges before it can be legalized.

Any Florida bill attempting to legalize retail or online sports betting will most likely be challenged in court on the grounds that it violates Amendment 3, a Florida voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires any new casino gambling laws to be approved by voters. Florida lawmakers have argued in the past that Amendment 3 only applies to “casino gambling” and sports betting does not have to exclusively take place in a casino.

Additionally, Brandes said it has become increasingly obvious that his colleagues have no interest in regulating Florida sports betting.

“It’s pretty simple. Most of my colleagues are unwilling to see the benefit of a regulated sports betting industry in Florida. They’re perfectly fine with an unregulated industry that’s unenforced,” he said.

New Florida gaming compact

Perhaps the most likely approach is the state approving a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. The state could again attempt to reach an agreement with the Seminole Tribe and include retail sports betting in the document.

The state approved a 30-year gaming compact this past summer that gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive retail and online sports betting rights in the state. The gaming compact was thrown out by U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich in November. Friedrich said it was her opinion that its inclusion of online sports betting ultimately violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

“And although the Compact ‘deem[s]’ all sports betting to occur at the location of the Tribe’s ‘sports book(s)’ and supporting servers, see Compact § III(CC)(2), this Court cannot accept that fiction. When a federal statute authorizes an activity only at specific locations, parties may not evade that limitation by “deeming” their activity to occur where it, as a factual matter, does not,” she wrote.

In her opinion she did write that a new gaming compact could be legalized by the state and the Seminole Tribe, but it could not include an online sports betting component. Retail sports betting at tribal owned casinos would be appropriate, she noted.

It’s hard to believe the state will not attempt to come to an agreement for another gaming compact. In exchange for a monopoly on sports betting, and expanded gaming opportunities, the Seminole Tribe agreed to pay Florida at least $2.5 billion over the first five years, with annual payments of at least $500,000 each year after.

With that kind of potential revenue on the table, it’s hard to imagine the Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida not going back to the table to work out a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

A court appeal

Several appeals of Friedrich’s decision on the gaming compact are currently moving their way through a U.S. Court of Appeals. Both the Seminole Tribe and the U.S. Department of the Interior have filed appeals, but the process is a lengthy one.

An appeal can take anywhere between 6 to 12 months before a decision is made.

However, it was somewhat of a surprise when the DOI filed its own appeal of the decision to throw out the compact. It opens up more possibilities for the appeal and potential avenues to have the decision overturned, but it’s not yet known what the DOI will be using as a basis of its argument for the appeal.

Not happening anytime soon

So what does all this mean? It means Floridians will not see legalized online sports for the next several years, barring a successful appeal. The earliest Florida online sports betting could launch is sometime in 2025 if a citizen’s initiative is approved in 2024.

Retail sports betting could be legalized if its included in a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, but this would obviously not include any avenues for online sports betting and would limit the activity to Seminole Tribe owned casinos.