The compact allowing Florida’s Seminole Tribe to offer sports betting in the state has been approved by two House committees, but only after a new amendment removing a pathway for the tribe to offer online casino gaming in the future.
The compact had initially included a provision that the state and the tribe “engage in good faith negotiations” within the next three years to allow the tribe to offer online casino gaming.
It was put before both the Florida House and Senate to be ratified in a special session.
However, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said that he and many other members of the house opposed the section of the compact that could pave the way for casino gaming.
“In my discussions with our Members, I realized many shared the same concern as I—that some language in the compact could be construed to lead to the backdoor expansion of online gaming,” he said.
As a result, Sprowls, alongside Rules Committee chair Paul Renner and gaming committee chair Randy Fine took part in further negotiations with the tribe to produce an amended version of the compact.
“Even the mere possibility of this was unacceptable, and therefore chairman Renner, chairman Fine and I engaged directly with the Seminole Tribe on this issue,” Sprowls said.
“I appreciate the tribe and Governor DeSantis understanding the gravity of our concerns and amending the compact to remove any and all references to statewide online casino gaming.
“I also want to thank [Senate] president Simpson and our Senate counterparts for continuing to be steadfast partners throughout this entire endeavor.”
Just before the bill was to be considered, Sprawls presented the amended version of the compact.
The House Gaming Committee’s subcommittee on approval of the compact discussed the bill to approve the compact, including debating its constitutionality.
Under Amendment 3 of Florida’s constitution, “casino gambling” outside of tribal lands must be approved by referendum.
The compact requires that all servers that take bets are located at tribal casinos but allows bets to be placed statewide, in what the tribe has referred to as a “hub-and-spoke model”. Bill co-sponsor Cam Garrison acknowledged that there was some debate in the constitutionality of the online portion of bill.
“There are legitimate questions as to whether the hub-and-spoke model for sports gaming, as contemplated in the compact, triggers Amendment 3,” Garrison said. “Part of the question depends on whether sports gaming can be considered an activity commonly offered at casinos, and depending on who you listen to, you could make a good case for both sides. It’s an open legal question.”
Representative Michael Grieco was among those who argued the compact would require a referendum, pointing to a previous decision by the House to determine online sales taxes based on the location of those making a purchase.
Ultimately, the subcommittee moved to pass the bill by a 13-4 vote. The House Approprations Committee also agreed to pass the bill, by an 18-1 vote.