Domestic Florida Sports Betting – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Pending lawsuits claiming a number of allegations against the Seminole Tribe of Florida and their gaming compact with the State of Florida have caused all Hard Rock sportsbook locations, both online and off, to cease operations until resolved.

The compact was declared unconstitutional in federal court, and now, the Department of the Interior intends to appeal that decision, citing that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is allowed total approval authority. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has also filed an appeal.

The crux of the matter is based on the Florida sports betting monopoly provided to the Seminole Tribe via the compact. The Sunshine State’s poker rooms are cut out of the action and have raised enough of a stink to shelve domestic sports betting in Florida for the time being.

While federal court proceedings can take years to complete, the money tied into these cases will likely prompt expeditious action so stay tuned to this blog for Florida sports betting updates as they occur.

Legal Sports Betting In Florida And The Battle Between The Legislature And Seminole Tribe

Negotiations over gambling rights lie at the heart of the battle for legal sports betting in Florida. The 2020 general election brought states like Maryland, Nebraska, South Dakota, and most Louisiana parishes into the modern world of sports wagering. Florida had a similar bill in circulation in 2019 that never made it past committee.

Floridians remain in the dark on the nuances of why Florida has not expanded its gambling industry, and demand continues to rise. Here at SGFL, we break down this decades-long debate and discuss the paths to domestic sports betting in Florida.

Some say that the issue dates to early 1800’s America, back when the US government was signing peace treaties settling Native American tribes in westward reservations. The Seminoles remained one of the only tribes not to sign a peace agreement, giving them the ‘Unconquered’ status and highlighting the tribe’s modern business mindset.

In the late 1970s, the Seminoles began expanding their ventures into the gambling industry. The legal battle materialized during this time, with a critical piece of federal legislation passing in 1988. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, passed by Congress, granted tribes the sovereignty to create casinos on their land if the tribe signs a compact to disperse some revenue back to the State.

The Act did not come into play until 2007 when the Seminole Tribe officially bought the Hard Rock brand and began building their casino empire. In 2010 the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe expanded their $350 million annual compact, giving the Seminoles exclusivity over offering banked card games.

That compact expired in 2015, and since then, negotiations over a new deal have faltered. Further compact talks on behalf of the Florida legislature attempted to pare down certain exclusivity rights and give the State more control over the gambling industry.

There are a few reasons why negotiations have faltered.

The Seminole Tribe claims that the State is violating their agreement by allowing the pari-mutuel industry to offer player-designated card games at horse, dog, and jai alai frontons. The State has failed to crack down on the pari-mutuels, prompting the Seminole Tribe to discontinue its $350 million in annual revenue sharing.

And since the repeal of PASPA in 2018, which opened the sports betting industry to US states, things have only gotten more complicated.

In 2018 an organization called No Casinos sponsored Amendment 3, which requires voter approval for proposals on casino-style gambling. Voter approval is not necessary on Tribal property since it is regulated under Federal law. The two largest donors backing the Amendment, which passed, were Disney and the Seminole Tribe.

State lawmakers attempted to negotiate a deal in 2018 to no avail. In 2019, Florida Senator Jeff Brandes sponsored a bill to give the State of Florida regulatory authority over the sports betting industry. Still, he failed to get the bill onto the Senate floor.

Senator Wilton Simpson attempted to negotiate a new deal in 2019, a 31-year compact, with the Seminoles. Senate President Bill Galvano shot that deal down. The proposed compact aimed to continue to allow the operation of pari-mutuel card rooms while giving the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights over hosting statewide online sports betting.

Now Florida lawmakers are engaged in backroom discussions, using Simpson’s proposal as a first draft, and attempting to hash out a new compact to propose to the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Sports betting serves as the most enticing leverage the State may offer the tribe to resume annual revenue sharing.

Some district judges argue that both actors have broken negotiation agreements and that neither is compelled to continue bilateral negotiations. Some think the State should go ahead and legalize sports betting alone without the Seminole Tribe. However, if the State does this, they enter a risky competition with the Seminole Tribe, which is already a gambling industry giant.

Miami Herald
Miami Herald

Questions Facing Miami Heat During Offseason

Despite narrowly missing the Playoffs for the 2016-2017 season, the Miami Heat looked like one of the strongest contenders in the East. The Heat could come back with a strong resurgence in the next season, barring the right offseason moves. Pat Riley is known for his negotiating prowess and the veteran coach-turned-president will want to give his organization all the pieces they need to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money.

The first step for any team in the offseason is deciding which players to retain. The current Heat roster put up an endearing season performance, especially given the fact that the team lost franchise player Dwayne Wade, so Coach Erik Spoelstra will be keen to have the same group of guys going into next season. Hassan Whiteside showcased another dominant season-performance, ending the season as the league’s best rebounder (he led the league in blocked shots in the previous season). Whiteside’s offensive presence was felt as well with an average of 17 PPG. Starting PG Goran Dragic led the team in points with 20 PPG. Dion Waiters enjoyed a breakout season with the Heat, most notably defeating the Golden State Warriors with a buzzer-beater three. The organization will want to retain Waiters, and he seems to feel the same way.

Now, the Heat already have some players under contract, including Whiteside ($23.8 million), Dragic ($17 million), Tyler Johnson ($5.8 million), Josh McRoberts ($6 million) and Justice Winslow ($1.9 million). Chris Bosh and the Heat finally reached an agreement for them to part ways. Bosh, once an integral part of the team, hasn’t played due to blood clots in his lungs. Bosh took up a large chunk of the team’s cap space, so his leaving frees up some cap space that they can use to sign another star player. Willie Reed, who played backup to Whiteside at center, is another player whose status is a bit of a question mark. Reed could exercise a player option that would see him come back, but it is unclear if he will.

The one thing the Heat need is another star player. With Bosh’s cap space cleared up, they could move for such stars like Utah’s Gordon Hayward or Indiana’s Paul George. A player of Hayward or George’s caliber, paired with the team’s already strong depth, could elevate the Heat to where they need to be to become serious contenders. The Heat’s decisions regarding player retention will certainly affect the odds and betting lines coming into the new season, driving bettors to pay close attention to how this plays out and how the legitimate sports betting destinations respond to it.

Players have most of the summer to decide whether they want to opt in or out of their contracts (if they have the option to do so), so free agency takes time. Once the Heat tie up their free agents, they will be available to target a big name. They will likely have enough cap space to offer a max deal ($30-35 million) for one player, but not much after that. Suffice it to say, the team managed to hit .500 for the season as is, so it looks like they only need one more piece. Their disappointment on missing the Playoff due to a tiebreaker will be enough to see them come back with a vengeance.

Miami Dolphins Future Looks Bright

The Miami Dolphins are coming off a successful season under new head coach Adam Gase. The Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time since 2008, though they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round. The interesting thing to note about the Dolphins’ season is the reinvigorated sense of passion and drive amongst the players. The players have taken a strong liking to Coach Gase and will look to repeat the same success of last season.

This offseason is as pivotal as ever if the Dolphins want to make the playoffs again. The biggest needs for the team fall on the defensive end. This year’s Dolphins defense set a franchise record for most yards allowed overall, a huge red flag for any team. Former Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph opted for a job as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos. The Dolphins decided to promote from within and appoint former linebacker coach Matt Burke to the position. Burke’s first task is to redesign the defense to allow less yards per game. The Dolphins already have some key defensive players in N’damukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Mario Williams, but they’ll need to add some talent in the offseason if they’re serious about upgrading the defense. There’s potential for trades and signings in the offseason, but most analysts expect the Dolphins to make their defensive moves with their draft picks.

There are a few defensive studs up for grabs in the NFL Draft this year. Linebacker Jarrad Davis out of the University of Florida is a possible option, while another is Wisconsin linebacker T. J. Watt, the younger brother of Houston Texan J. J. Watt. If the younger brother is anything like the older, then he will have a successful career as a linebacker in the NFL. Another interesting homegrown player would be DeMarcus Walker out of Florida State University. Walker was a key part of FSU’s defense this year and had a phenomenal Orange Bowl performance against Michigan. Whatever Coach Gase and the front office decide to do, it’s vital they make some moves on draft day.

As far as offense goes, the top priority is retaining WR Jarvis Landry. Landry has put up great numbers and is in his last year of his rookie contract. It’s expected that the Dolphins will offer him a lucrative contract so he’ll stay in Miami—and he’s worth every penny. Landry looks to be on the rise and the 2017-2018 season should see his numbers only get better. The Dolphins have other WR options in DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills, but they may be looking to add another quality WR in the offseason. Jay Ajayi had a good season as the primary RB. Ajayi rushed for a total of 1,272 yards and 8 TDs. He also had 27 receptions for 151 yards.

QB Ryan Tannehill was lost at the end of the season to a torn ACL, but he’s expected to be back at the start of next season. Tannehill is still a question mark for some, but he’s put up decent numbers over the years. 2016 was actually one of his quieter seasons, throwing for just under 3,000 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He still had an overall rating of 93.5 and this is due to the fact that his completion to attempt ratio was the best it’s been so far. Tannehill had 261 completions through 389 attempts.

Coach Gase has the players and fans rallied behind him. With the right additions, the same drive and a new defensive strategy, the Dolphins can surely make another postseason push and become true AFC contenders.  This is good news for those who enjoy sports gambling in Florida as the Dolphins could be a very good team next year.