Florida is home to many gaming choices both on the internet and in the real world. Legal online gambling in Florida now includes horse racing betting, greyhound betting and daily fantasy sports. In the physical world, Florida has horse racing betting, bingo, traditional casinos and jai alai betting.
Sports gambling in Florida does not appear likely at the moment. The country has long been eyed as a major potential market for sport betting, but modifications to state authorities have made any upcoming gaming expansions harder as they now require a statewide referendum initiated by request.
Legal Online Betting Options
Let’s start with a quick collection of authorized Florida betting sites and then dig into every detail below.
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Horse and Greyhound Racing
Online horse racing and greyhound gambling are legal in Florida for decades and a number of major racing sites accept clients from the Sunshine State. BetAmerica, TwinSpires and TVG all accept Florida customers and are licensed directly here in america.
In November 2018, Florida voters approved Amendment 13 to end greyhound racing. The amendment created greyhound racing and gambling on live greyhound races held in Florida illegal starting on January 1st, 2021.
Existing racetracks will still be permitted to offer poker and other games after the amendment takes effect, however they’ll no longer be able to host live greyhound races. This modification has no impact on internet greyhound racing, which will stay legal because the change only seeks to prevent wagers placed on races held at the state.
The legal situation for fantasy sports in Florida is complex and unclear, but most daily dream sites have served the nation for years with no hindrance from local officials.
A number of attempts to officially legalize dream sports in Florida have collapsed over the years because of disputes over how the activity should be categorized and the intricacy of tribal gambling contracts between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
A 1991 Attorney General opinion lumped season-long dream sports in with gambling and opined it is probably illegal under state law, but the opinion is outdated and does not hold legal weight. Just as lawmakers would like to explain the legal status of fantasy sports, progress has been slow. In the meantime, Florida residents are approved in both FanDuel and DraftKings:
Florida gaming law allows games of ability only if entry fees do not directly contribute to the prize pool. What this means is that it is authorized to pay an entrance fee and compete for a fixed prize, but to not play at a contest where all the entry fees are accumulated to form the decoration pool itself.
For instance, it would be lawful to host a paid-entry golf championship in the event the organizers set fixed prizes which don’t change regardless of the number of men and women enter the championship. That same tournament would cross the line into illegal land if prizes were determined by pooling entry fees and paying the winners a percentage of the prize pool.
A 1990 comment from the Attorney General summed it up as follows:
“Accordingly, I am of the opinion that a contest of skill, like a hole-in-one golf contest, in which the contestant pays an entry fee, which doesn’t constitute the decoration, for the chance to win a valuable prize by the exercise of skill, doesn’t violate the gaming laws of the state. To the extent that previous views of this office might be inconsistent with the conclusion reached herein, they are hereby modified.”
WorldWinner.com, which is currently the largest skill gaming site, accepts citizens of Florida but restricts them from particular contests where the prize pool is not fixed. Follow the link below to see more about WorldWinner:
What about the state lottery?
Florida DOES NOT sell tickets online nor does it provide a subscription service. Obviously, you could always try your luck at unauthorized lottery resellers that you can discover online. I don’t recommend going that route though. It’s still illegal to sell lottery tickets on the internet in Florida so any website involved in the business is totally unregulated and most likely located abroad.
Nobody really understands how secure or legit foreign lottery resellers are. They claim to have a team of representatives located around the world whose job it would be to go around and purchase lottery tickets on behalf of customers. The issue is there’s no way to verify how it actually works.
If you would like to play the lottery, it is best to just go buy your tickets in person. You truly don’t want to leave the fate of your $40 million dollar at the hands of a foreign, quasi-legal site. States do have the authority to sell tickets on the internet, but Florida does not yet do this.
Sports Betting in Florida
Sports betting is illegal for besides 2 exceptions: jai alai betting and cruise ships which sail to international waters to provide sports betting.
The exemption for jai alai gambling dates back to some time in Florida during which jai alai was considerably larger than the obscure sport it’s today. Jai alai arrived to Florida in the 1920s, and eventually the state became a little of an epicenter for jai alai players across the world because of warm weather year-round and easy accessibility from Spain and Latin America, where jai alai is popular.
During its heyday, jai alai was even exempted from state and federal sports betting prohibitions. Jai alai preserved a strong presence in Florida through the 1970s but entered a steady decline from the 1980s amid rising competition from professional sports teams, the lottery and South Florida casinos.
Today, jai alai is a rather niche game and there are only a handful of busy frontons in operation now. For the most part, jai alai survives today primarily due to Florida gaming laws that need card rooms to offer some form of parimutuel wagering (such as jai alai, greyhound racing or horse racing betting). Therefore, most jai alai frontons exist chiefly to facilitate other kinds of gaming.
The other”exclusion” into Florida’s sports gambling prohibition occurs on the cruise ships operated by Victory Casino Cruises. Victory Casino Cruise ships depart twice each day out of Port Canaveral. These boats sail out into international waters, open a casino and sportsbook for a couple hours and then come back to shore later that same day.
As far as a widespread legalization of sports gambling, Florida doesn’t appear likely to expand its gaming options any time soon. There haven’t been any efforts to introduce sports gambling legislation and there have been no recent attempts to legalize sports betting.
A report from Eilers & Krejcik Gambling recorded the 32 states likely to legalize sports betting within five years of a Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal prohibition of sports betting. Florida wasn’t included in that listing, but it was included in a supplemental list of all 12 additional states inclined to legalize sports betting within seven decades of such a ruling.
Can Sports Betting Ever Be Legalized at Florida?
Apart from the exceptions detailed above, sports betting remains illegal in Florida and that is not likely to change any time soon. Florida has a complex mixture of competing interests involving lawmakers, Tribal concerns and even the Disney company that all have their own opinions on the growth of gaming.
The chances of Florida legalizing sports betting any time soon took a hit in 2018 when voters approved a ballot measure that basically stripped off the state legislature from authorizing any gaming expansion, including sports betting.
Previously, the state legislature could have possibly drafted a new law to make Florida sports gambling legal. Under the new amendment, Florida citizens would have to initiate a campaign to collect signatures to put the issue into a statewide referendum. Subsequently, Republicans would have to accept that referendum by 60% to make sports betting legal. It’s possible, but not very likely at this moment.
Is it lawful to bet online in Florida?
It depends on what your definition of”legal” is. A few forms of internet betting are explicitly legal in Florida (horses, greyhounds, fantasy and skill). It is obviously illegal to operate an online casino, card room or some other business that accepts wagers without the proper licensing.
What is not clear is whether or not it is a crime to place bets online at unlicensed gaming sites. The main text in Florida’s gaming laws reads as follows:
“849.08 Gambling. Whoever plays or engages in any sport , keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, anytime, by any device whatever, for cash or other item of value, will be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree…”
It appears pretty apparent that this law makes it a misdemeanor offense to participate in obvious gambling games such as slot machines, slots, blackjack, craps and so on. The part that says”by any system whatever” is easily interpreted to include the world wide web. However, the country hasn’t prosecuted a single person for the mere act of placing bets online. Hunting down individuals playing blackjack in their computers just is not a high priority.
Online poker is a different matter. The above law doesn’t explicitly cite”poker” but it does say”any game at cards.” But — there is always a but — the phrase”other game of chance” appears to imply that only games of chance have been forbidden. If poker is not a game of chance, this legislation doesn’t apply.
It does not end there, folks. You and that I may not consider poker a game of chance, but sure state and federal laws most definitely do specify poker as exactly that. Florida law doesn’t define games of chance nor does it mention poker and there’s absolutely no case law to fall back on.
Someone would need to push the thing before we ever get Florida’s opinion on the situation of poker being ability or fortune. This likely won’t happen anytime soon because nobody is searching down poker players .
What the Future Holds for Internet Gambling in Florida
A growing number of states are in the process of legalizing online poker and casino games following a federal judge ruled in 2011 that the Wire Act of 1961 only applies to sports gambling. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have already legalized internet poker, casino games or even both. State legislators in Florida haven’t yet moved to change anything. No legislation is pending in this moment.
It doesn’t look like anything will be changing in Florida any time soon . The state is largely opposed to the growth of online gambling. Back in April of 2014, Florida governor Rick Scott expressed his opposition to expanding online gambling at the federal level with a letter directed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
In the years since, there haven’t been any real efforts to change Florida gaming laws. The present status quo looks quite likely to remain as it is for the foreseeable future.
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