Florida is the land of fun- from the theme parks to the beautiful beaches to the party towns like Key West. There is entertainment in myriad forms in the Sunshine state, including lots of gambling opportunities from casinos to bingo.
However, there is one growing segment of the gaming industry that is not yet legal in this state. Online gaming including online sports betting is not yet allowed in Florida.
Florida gambling laws have typically been rather open since the 1930s when betting on horses, dogs and jai alai was permitted, in addition to early slot machines. However, certain political and economic drivers have stood in the law of legalization of online gaming in this jurisdiction over the last few years.
If you are interested in gambling in Florida, check out these eight facts you should know about the legal status of different kinds of wagering.
1. History of Gambling
Florida has long been known as a fun place to place a bet. During Prohibition, Miami was known as a locale where you could not only get an illegal cocktail but also place a bet or two.
Legalization started in1931 when betting on horses and dog races was finally allowed. This was followed by the legalization of slot machines in 1935- a move that was repealed a short two years later. Slot machines were then legalized again in 2004 in a select few locations.
Betting on the obscure sport of jai alai was also allowed starting in the 1930s. This entertainment was popular in the 80s but has declined in followers lately.
In 1988 the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act permitted legalized betting through slots on tribal lands. Because of the high number of Native American tribes in Florida, this new market opened up rapidly so people would go to tribal casinos to bet.
2. Power of the Casinos and Theme Parks
Tribes like the Seminole tribe contributed to the rise of legal casino gambling in Florida. Their reservations are often near major metropolitan areas so the tribe was able to quickly jump on the tourist bandwagon and build popular casinos,
In 1981 the Seminoles began offering bingo at their Tampa-area reservation. Now they own and operate seven different casinos, including two Seminole Hard Rock locations. A few years later, the rules on gambling were further relaxed so tribal casinos could offer poker as well as slots.
This has proven to be a windfall for the tribe. In 2017, the Seminole generated over $2 billion in revenue from their gambling operations.
The success of the tribal casinos offers a powerful reason why it has been difficult for online gaming to gain a foothold in Florida.
Online gaming has also been opposed by other powerful forces in the state such as Disney, the owner of one of the area’s most lucrative tourist attractions. Legalizing gaming beyond the current status quo might present a threat to the current entertainment model in the state.
3. Economic Success in Other States
Online gaming has been popular overseas for decades but has been slow to take off in the United States. It is now legalized in four states: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. There are also sites to do it in Michigan, like this website.
New Jersey has experienced an economic windfall by legalizing online gaming. Over 3,000 new jobs were created during the first three years that online gaming was legal in New Jersey, accounting for nearly $250 million in wages. The industry generated $34.5 million in gaming taxes for New Jersey in 2016, including approximately $29.5 million to the state and $4.9 million locally, reflecting a 32% increase over 2015.
Other states have been wondering why they should not experience the prosperity seen by New Jersey and other states by legalizing this entertainment.
4. Supreme Court Changes the Law
Another development which may change the state of the law in Florida is last year’s Supreme Court decision which allowed states to legalize sports betting if their citizens so desire.
Since the decision, many states have begun the process of legalizing sports betting within their borders. Many of these states want to allow gamblers to place bets not just from the confines of a casino, but via their phones, another form of online gambling. We watch movies on our phones, order food and order our transportation: why should we not have the ability to place a bet that way too?
Since the evolution of the law on this subject, there seems to be an added momentum to allow Floridians to place bets online as well as from casinos.
5. Florida Wants Voters to Decide
In late 2018, Florida passed “Amendment 3,” which gives its residents the exclusive right to authorize and potentially expand casino gambling in the state. The amendment was supported by a political committee financed by the Seminole Tribe and Disney.
If the amendment had failed, the state legislature would have been able to decide the question of whether to legalize sports betting and online gaming. It is notoriously difficult to pass measures by voter referendum and it takes a lot of time and money. This will slow efforts to legalize online betting in Florida.
6. Offshore Possibilities
There are some websites open to Americans who want to legally gamble online.
Bovada, MyBookie.ag, Sportsbetting.ag, Ignition Casino, and Sloto Cash are U.S. player friendly, certified and operate with strict rules for and regulations for their players’ safety. They are legal and licensed wherever Americans can place bets legally.
However, because the status of online gaming’s legality is in flux in many areas, you may need to exercise caution, depending on where you are located when you place your online bet.
People in Florida can also go to the Bahamas easily or on short “cruises to nowhere” which take them out of state waters and permit them to gamble.
8. The Wire Act
The Department of Justice has recently issued an opinion which has placed the legal status of online gaming in flux. The government claims that any betting or transfers of money which cross state lines violate the Wire Act. This could affect online gaming, which depends on servers and other technology which may be located in many different locations.
Because the status of legalized online gaming – not just in Florida but in the United States, in general – is evolving, stay up to date on developments if you are interested in this kind of entertainment.
Florida Gambling Laws: Changes in the Wind
Right now, it is hard to predict whether Florida gambling laws will follow the ways of the rest of the country and shift towards legalization of sports betting and online games. Local communities may want gambling to stay in the tribal casinos, while budget pressures may cause local governments to follow their neighbors and generate revenue by legalizing the games online.
For more tips on how to have fun Floridaoda, check out our blog.