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Florida Lawmakers Will Wager On Sports Betting Once Again In 2021

Florida welcome sign in a large sportsbook

On Monday, Florida Senator Jeff Brandes of Pinellas County filed three bills for the 2021 legislative session that are intended to legalize sports betting in the Sunshine State.

Senator Brandes attempted to get legal sports betting in Florida off the ground during the 2020 session, but all efforts died and didn’t make it any further than the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee.

Senate Bill 392 would be the governing piece of legislation if passed. It grants the authority to regulate FL sports betting to the Department of the Lottery. Any outside sportsbook operators would need to file for a license with the DOL at an annual cost of $100,000.

There is language regarding sports betting pools, so perhaps Brandes intends to slow roll the industry into Florida and test the waters prior to jumping in with both feet.

The state has embraced legal poker rooms and Tribal casinos, so one can imagine the appeal of luxury sportsbooks in Miami along South Beach.

One issue that often slows the progress of sports betting acceptance in conservative states is the toll it takes on low-income residents who are vulnerable to the addictive qualities of sports betting.

Something Floridians should consider when voting on gambling initiatives or sports betting approval measures is the large number of USA-based and international tourists that visit the region.

Upwards of 80 million people travel to Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando each year. The entire city thrives off of the traffic that is attracted to the area because visitors need other things to do while they are visiting central Florida.

The presence of legal sportsbooks in Orlando would be a natural fit, and the tax dollars generated would be largely sourced from people that do not live in Florida.

The bill also sets a minimum age of 21 to place a bet on sports, taking this particular decision out of the Florida Lottery’s hands. Again, this could be a tactic to appease conservatives that are concerned with college-age Floridians participating in sports betting.

The bill also opens the door for sports betting kiosks that will accept bets remotely and operate unmanned. Sports betting in Montana was recently approved, and they have successfully rolled out similar kiosks that can be placed in sports bars, casinos, and convenience stores.

Montana approved over 140 licenses because it is their only sportsbook outlet. Further debate and rulemaking will be required to decipher the direction Florida intends to go with these proposed betting machines.

Legislators and voters in Florida can probably tolerate a kiosk at a wing joint with 50 large screen televisions broadcasting all varieties of professional and college sports. They look like a sportsbook already.

The state already has lottery vending machines posted in grocery stores that allow patrons to purchase scratch-offs and lottery tickets. An additional state lottery sponsored sports betting kiosk parked right next door to it shouldn’t be too much of a bother, right?

The Senate bill also makes it illegal for the following individuals to participate in sports betting in Florida.

Who Can’t Participate In Florida Sports Betting?

  • Coaches
  • Players
  • Referees
  • Team Owner (10% Stake Or Higher)
  • Team Employees, Trainers, And Executives
  • Member Of Team Or League Governing Board

The Florida legislative session is scheduled to convene on March 2, 2021.

Source: CBS 12 News

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