NS. PETERSBURG, Florida – During this NFL season, Florida sports fans can finally get the chance to legally bet on their favorite team. That could mean a great godsend in new revenue for the state, but legal hurdles could stand in the way.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl at home, the Tampa Bay Lightning won consecutive Stanley Cups, and the Tampa Bay Rays earned a trip to the World Series.
Professional sports teams have earned our region the nickname “Champa Bay”.
“People are already sports betting”
Sports fans like Rob Coronado have benefited from betting on the home teams.
“I do, you know, without its legal I think,” Coronado told us while watching baseball games recently at Ferg’s Sports Bar in St. Petersburg.
He is by no means the only one who secretly relies on sports.
When we asked Rob Stamey about this, he admitted that all of his friends were betting on sports.
“Why would people have to go behind the scenes or all these apps to access them?” Asked Stamey. “The legalization of sports betting will make it easier for us sports fans.”
Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes backed a bill last year that called for sports betting to be legalized so the state could finally participate in some of the profits.
“People are already sports betting. You’ve been running sports betting in the state of Florida for years. And again, we’re just creating one legal way of doing this compared to what’s going on today, where everyone is generally just looking the other way, ”Brandes said.
But Senator Brandes’ law that would have brought sports betting under the control of the Florida Lottery failed.
Compact could pay the state $ 6 billion by 2030
Instead, Governor Ron DeSantis announced in April that he had signed a preliminary 30-year contract with the Seminole Indian tribe who run Hard Rock casinos.
This deal included the offer of in-person and online sports betting.
RELATED: Gov. DeSantis signs new gaming compact with Seminole Tribe
Under the agreement, the Seminole tribe will pay the state of Florida up to $ 6 billion from sports betting revenues through 2030. That’s the equivalent of $ 277 per person in Florida.
The agreement was approved by state lawmakers and not rejected by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which regulates Indian gambling.
But not everyone supported the deal, including Senator Brandes.
“Essentially, we have a monopoly for the Seminole tribe to offer sports betting for the state of Florida. I voted against this monopoly. I don’t think it’s the right way to go. I think we should open it up and allow the market to choose where people want to place their bets and not have to go over a channel that the tribe of Florida is, “Brandes said.
Lawsuit filed, referendum requested
The pact is now being challenged in federal court by two commercial gambling companies in south Florida who say the pact will harm their businesses and break the law.
The lawsuit states that mobile sports betting should not have been allowed under the agreement.
“Contrary to the legal fiction created by the Compact and Implementation Act 2021, a bet is placed where the bettor and the casino are,” the complaint said.
“One could interpret that sports betting can only be placed on tribal property,” said Brandes.
RELATED: Florida could become the most populous state to offer mobile sports betting if lawmakers approve new rules
The state has filed a motion to dismiss, but a judge has not yet ruled on it.
Other companies, including DraftKings and FanDuel, are trying to get involved in the Florida sports betting promotion by sponsoring a voting initiative that would open sports betting to other companies.
When there is an election next year, every expansion would have to be approved with 60 percent votes.
ABC Action News scheduled an interview with Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen, who helped write the Seminole Compact, but its spokesman later canceled he was too busy to speak.
The Seminole tribe recently ran ads on Florida television networks, including ABC Action News, promoting the benefits of the agreement.
“People are already playing. Why not make some money out of it? ”Said Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg’s Sports Bar.
Ferguson says he doesn’t care who is behind this, he believes legal sports betting will be good for Florida and good for its business.
“People want to watch six or seven games at the same time, and if you have 90 TVs, we’re the perfect place to do that,” he said.
If the lawsuit is dismissed, sports betting could be allowed as early as next month.
If it goes to court, the problem may not be resolved until next year.
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