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Sports betting once again illegal in Florida

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 4:21 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - If you were planning to bet on the Thanksgiving Day NFL game through the Seminole Tribe’s Sports betting app, you might want to think twice.

A ruling Monday night from a federal judge struck down the tribe’s compact with the state, which means at least for now sports betting is illegal in Florida.

However, voters may have an opportunity to legalize sports betting in less than a year.

At the start of this month, the Seminole Tribe launched its Hard Rock Sportsbook App. Now a federal judge has ruled the compact that made it possible null and void.

State Representative and former House Gaming Chair Randy Fine told us Floridians should stop placing sports bets, at least for now.

“Unless you want to be a felon,” Fine said.

But Fine noted sports betting could be back if voters will it.

“Voters could have an opportunity even if the compact worked out, but not until next November,” Fine said.

Florida Education Champions is behind the citizen initiative seeking to legalize sports betting across the board. Tax revenue generated would be used to boost education funding.

“We estimate hundreds of millions of dollars and that’s based on comparison to other states, large states, that are also implementing this,” Christina Johnson with Florida Education Champions said.

The citizen initiative also wouldn’t run into some of the issues the compact faced, because voters would have to approve it. Unlike the compact, the initiative allows for betting not only on professional and collegiate but also amateur sporting events.

John Sowinski with No Casinos doubts Florida voters would sign off.

“You’d have people betting on high school football if this thing were to pass. I don’t think Florida voters, that that agrees with their sensibility. Even those who might not be that opposed to the general idea of sports betting,” said Sowinski.

The sports betting initiative only has 116,000 signatures validated so far, but the group backing it tells us more than half a million have been collected.

It will need approval from the State Supreme Court and nearly 400,000 more signatures to make the 2022 ballot.

If it does make the ballot the initiative would need 60 percent voter approval to pass, a feat no gaming expansion of this magnitude has ever achieved in Florida.