With no legalisation bill on the horizon, Florida sports betting remains illegal and this appears unlikely to change anytime soon. The state’s gambling laws are among the least permissive in the US, and any future changes would require a public referendum with a 60% majority for amendment. As of 2019, all forms of online gambling are prohibited, and would-be gamblers are limited to traditional options, such as slot machines and bingo, Native American reservations and “cruises to nowhere”.
Gambling Laws in Florida
Gambling has long been legal in the Sunshine State, but heavily restricted and limited to in-person experiences. Currently, Floridians can indulge in betting on racing (horses and greyhounds), slot machines, lotteries and bingo. For anything else, it’s a trip to a Native American casino or a “cruise to nowhere”. As a result, the Seminole Native American Tribe hold an effective monopoly over land-based casino gambling in the state, though there is also a handful of “racinos”.
Online gambling is illegal in all forms and, thanks to Florida voters approving Amendment 3 to the Constitution, this can only be changed through a public vote. Any substantial change, therefore, seems unlikely in the near-future and, with greyhound racing set to be phased out by 2021, sports betting in Florida will soon be restricted to horse racing. At the time of writing, the state governor Ron DeSantis was concluding a summit with the gaming industry, but wholesale legislative changes are not expected to emerge from this.
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Most Popular Sports in Florida
The Sunshine State is well-named and enjoys great weather all-year-round, which lends itself to all manner of outdoor (and indoor) pursuits. Florida loves its sports and is long on pro teams but – except for the basketball team Miami Heat – short on recent glories. With teams based in Miami, Tampa Bay, Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida is represented in the Big Four sports leagues, in large part driven by the state’s vibrant college sports scenes. Not to be outdone; however, the state is also home to an MLS team, Orlando City SC, and a thriving horse and greyhound racing culture.
National Football League – Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Miami Dolphins are the oldest and best-known football team in Florida. They were a dominant force for the last thirty years of the 20th century, winning two consecutive Super Bowls under the legendary head coach Don Shula in 1972 and 1973. Recent years have been less plentiful though, with only two playoff appearances in the last fifteen years, as the New England Patriots have become the team to beat in the AFC East. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also not had the rub of the green of late. They had only one winning season in the last ten years, but had a flurry of success in the late 1990s onwards, culminating with a Super Bowl win in 2002. Having joined the NFL in 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the youngest franchises. They have struggled to find consistent success, owning the dubious honour of being one of four teams to have never played in a Super Bowl.
National Basketball Association – Miami Heat, Orlando Magic
Florida loves its basketball and, thanks to Miami Heat, has tasted the ultimate glory three times in the last fifteen years. Playing to raucous crowds in Downtown Miami’s American Airlines Arena, Miami Heat has featured some bona fide legends of the game over the years, with Shaquille O’Neal helping them to their first-ever championship in 2006 and LeBron James capturing back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. Orlando Magic are less well-known and have struggled in recent years, but a record of 14 playoff appearances in 28 years and a division title in 2019 shows they can also be a force to be reckoned with.
Major League Soccer – Orlando City SC
Soccer is still a relatively new sport for Florida, but interest is growing. Orlando City SC is currently Florida’s the only representative in Major League Soccer and only ascended to the top flight in 2015. They are not short on glamour, however, with Brazilian Kaká, winner of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the prestigious Ballon d’Or, appearing for them from 2014 to 2017. From 2020, they will also be joined by Inter Miami CF, owned by global soccer megastar, David Beckham.
Major League Baseball – Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays
With near-constant sunshine, Florida is the perfect state for baseball, but their teams have not given their fans much to cheer about recently. The Miami Marlins, known as the Florida Marlins in the past, play at Marlins Park and have not put together a winning season since 2009. However, on both occasions in their history that they qualified for the playoffs, they went and won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. In the AL East with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays are at permanent risk of being overlooked, not to mention outspent, but had their best season in 2008 when they advanced to the World Series, losing in five games to the Philadelphia Phillies.
National Hockey League – Florida Panthers
Ice hockey may not leap to mind when one thinks about the Sunshine State but, from October to April, the Florida Panthers keep fans entertained in the BB&T Arena, just outside Miami. Set up in 1993 by Wayne Huizenga, the owner of Blockbuster Video, the Panthers enjoyed a lone Stanley Cup final appearance in 1996, losing to the Colorado Avalanche.
Racing – Horses and Greyhounds
Florida is well-known among horse racing enthusiasts around the world, home to three of the best-thoroughbred horse racing tracks in the country: Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West and Tampa Bay Downs. The state is also currently home to 11 of the 17 greyhound race tracks in the US, but after 69% of voters passed Amendment 13 to ban greyhound racing by 2021, enshrining the ban in Florida’s constitution.
Local History of Sports Betting
Aside from racing, sports betting has never been a legal part of gambling in Florida. While many states are looking to relax these laws, Florida is trending in the opposite direction, with the imminent banning of greyhound racing and voters binding the hands of the legislature with Amendment 3.
|1979||A high-stakes bingo hall is opened by the Seminole Native American Tribe. This was met with considerable opposition and the case was eventually heard by the US Court of Appeals, which allowed the venue to remain open.|
|1989||Penny ante poker is legalized, with a $10 cap on pots.|
|2004||Florida voters narrowly approve Amendment 4 in a referendum, which allowed Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to legalize slot machines.|
|2010||Florida legalizes no-limit, uncapped live poker games.|
|2018||Voters approve Amendment 3 to the state constitution, requiring any future expansion in gambling to be contingent on a public vote with a 60% majority in favour.|
Legal Online Sports Betting Age in Florida
Sports betting is currently illegal in Florida, regardless of age. The minimum age for other forms of gambling is either 18 (e.g. for horse racing) or 21 (e.g. for land-based casinos) so, if sports betting is eventually legalized, the minimum age is likely to be a key point of discussion. Most violations of Florida’s gambling laws are considered second-degree misdemeanors and can be punished up to 60 days in jail, 6 months probation or a $500 fine.
Sports Betting Age
Is Online Sports Betting Legal Outside of the State?
In the US, the legal question of sports betting is decided at the state-level. While Florida was the first state to allow gambling on Native American reservations in 1979, it has lagged behind other states in legalizing online sports betting: in November 2018, Rhode Island became the 8th state to allow sports betting and similar bills are pending in many other state legislatures. So far as the law is concerned, the location of the gambler is what matters. In other words, Floridia residents have the best chances of enjoying legal sports betting in Mississippi.
Taxes on Your Winnings: Do You Have to Pay Anything?
While it remains illegal, online sports betting in Florida is not subject to any tax whatsoever. However, all other gambling income has to be declared to the IRS, including cash winnings and the market value of non-cash prizes. Above a certain value, which depends on the source of the winnings and is not lower than $600, winnings are withheld at a flat rate of 25%. If extended to sports betting, this would be unlikely to impact occasional gamblers, who play for low stakes.
Upcoming Changes in Florida Betting Law
As previously mentioned, Florida’s governor is currently meeting with representatives from the gaming industry, but hopes are not high that this will lead to sports betting being legalised in the state anytime soon. The recent referendum on Amendment 3 has poured cold water on future changes to the state’s gambling legislation, despite the many sports teams in Florida and the size of the potential market. Any changes to sports betting laws are likely to emerge from future renegotiations with the Seminole Native American Tribe and limited to their reservations initially.