In focus: the state of gambling in South Florida

The Supreme Court’s decision to effectively legalize sports betting created a ripple effect in May 2018. A number of states moved quickly to take advantage of the new freedom to allow players to gamble and bet to their heart’s content. New Jersey, who had been exerting most of the pressure to bring about the reversal of the law, were quick to act. Since then, Delaware, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have all jumped on the bandwagon – and more are expected to follow this year.

A notable exception has been Florida. That’s despite many predicting that the Sunshine State might have been quicker off the mark, due to its strong reliance on tourism, plus the calibre of its sports teams which are major contenders on the football, basketball and baseball fields.

So what are the reasons behind this, and how do they fit in with the predominant legislation that governs gambling – not just in Southern Florida but state-wide too?

Florida’s gambling infrastructure

There are six main areas of gambling that are permitted by law in Florida: charitable gaming, lotteries, pari-mutuel, racetrack, offshore and casinos run by Native Americans.

The Seminole Tribe operate six casinos throughout Florida – and along with the Miccosukee Tribe, they have the exclusive rights to live dealers. Being on Indian Reservations, they were under no obligation to pay the state a penny – however, they agreed to pay $1.75 billion to the state as a measure of goodwill. The deal was extended in 2018 and is due to be reviewed again in May 2019. In total, there are at least 35 gambling locations throughout the state – however, they are limited to slot machines, every other form of gambling is prohibited in these venues.

Competition will be restricted for as long as this deal remains in place. All the while, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is receiving strong financial support from none other than Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands Casino magnate whose vociferous opposition to online casinos is well known. DeSantis’ backing from Adelson could have a knock-on effect for online gambling. It’s unlikely he’d be receiving the same level of support if his stance on the matter changed.

Gambling afloat: the offshore casino loophole

While land-based casinos are firmly in the hands of the Seminole Tribe in South Florida, water-based ones are one alternative casino gamblers have in the area.

These ‘casino ships’ are run by Victory Casino Cruises which run out of several ports across Florida, the cruises offer the whole gamut of games from slots to blackjack and poker. Cruises last for up to six hours and the luxurious ships feature four decks and 40,000 square feet of casino area. There are 600 slots on board with no less than 27 gaming tables with five bars for those in need of a little refreshment. It’s also a seven days a week service with two savings a day – and they also boast the only sportsbook in Florida.

These cruises offer roulette, a game that famously relies on a level surface to be played reliably. However, even on the choppiest waves, these robust cruise ships are able to provide a firm grounding that allows the ball to run around the wheel as smoothly as it would at a land-based casino on solid foundations. In addition to these cruises, there are ships which are fully-licensed for gambling which sail to the Bahamas throughout the year.

Roulette’s one of those games where luck plays a big part. After all, it’s a complete gamble to bet on red or black, or on a particular number. However, there are some useful approaches to how you make your wagers on the game that could see you walk out – or jump off-board – with a healthy amount of winnings in your pocket.

From guiding you around the basic rules to introducing you to sophisticated betting strategies, you’ll learn some valuable tips and tricks in this expert’s article about how to play roulette.

Best land-based casinos: The Seminole Hard Rock Casino

The Seminole Hard Rock Casino regards itself as ‘South Florida’s ultimate destination for fun and entertainment’, and with the huge range of games available at a casino covering 140,000 square feet, it’s hard to disagree. The casino features an award-winning poker room, with live sports action broadcast on its projector and TV’s. Players can go all-in, all the time, high-stakes poker is on offer 24 hours a day, with upwards of 40 tables offering various games and tournaments.

The venue has hosted the World Poker Tour, this is one of the most prestigious events in the poker diary, the tournament is featured on Fox Sports Network and attracts a substantial amount of interest. In 2017, it was announced that the Seminole Hard Rock Casino made $579 million, more than 8 racetrack casinos combined. It’s fair to say, the casino plays a significant role in South Florida’s gambling scene – in turn, providing a major boost to the economy.

 Best land-based casinos: Miccosukee Resort and Gaming

One of the most successful land-based tribal casinos in South Florida is at the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming on the edge of the Everglades. The casino resort first opened its doors in 1999 and is said to have cost $45 million to build. Today it’s run by about 400 members of the Miccosukee Tribe and offers around 1,700 slots and numerous gaming tables. It’s also the venue for regular poker tournaments and estimates suggest that it raises around $75 million a year for the tribe.

Turning to race tracks, one of the most popular is at Pompano Park in Broward which even carried off the award for Florida’s best gaming venue in 2018. As well as being the self-styled “Winter Home of Harness Racing” it’s also a leading venue for poker players. In addition to offering the lowest table limits in South Florida, it has also recently introduced the exciting one card poker game called “War”.

For slots fans there are no less than 1,500 games waiting to be played while for those looking for roulette, craps and blackjack there are electronic versions of the games – with the roulette using a real wheel and ball for added excitement. The track is owned and operated by Eldorado Resorts and they’ve also recently announced a partnership with Cordish Companies to develop the site further to create a truly Vegas-style leisure experience.

Best land-based casinos: Casino Miami

One of the best-known casinos in South Florida is the Casino Miami. Conveniently located just a couple of miles from Miami International Airport, the casino was formerly known as Miami Jai-Alai Fronton before being rebranded when it was taken over by Strip billionaire Phil Ruffin in 2018.

It has a gaming floor that covers 40,000 square feet – space enough to accommodate well over 1,000 slots machines as well as table games including electronic roulette and blackjack. Open seven days a week and strictly for the over 21s only, it’s a place that grows in popularity every year.

Best land-based casinos: Big Easy Casino

Last, but not least, heading back to Broward there’s The Big Easy Casino. Taken over in 2018 by Jeffrey Soffer of the Fontainebleau Hotel, this combines one of the state’s best greyhound racetracks with a state of the art casino complex.

Covering a huge 70,000 square feet and featuring 900 slots, it’s also a big favourite for poker players. The 30 table poker room means you can always get a game of 7 card stud, Texas Hold’em or Omaha hi-lo and the wide range of table limits means that novices and pro players will both feel at home.

Damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2018, the newly refurbished Big Easy Casino opened its doors to the public only a few months later.


It remains to be seen whether there’s any chance of gambling laws being relaxed in Florida any time soon. While the Republican Governor DeSantis would probably be keen to do anything that could raise some extra taxes for the state, his hands may be tied by his donors – which also give huge amounts of cash to the GOP.

Of course, it’s also a question of whether residents would like to see the industry expand and this is also open to debate. One thing is for sure – if the rules are relaxed, especially in the case of sports betting – there would certainly be many Miami Dolphins fans who’d give it their immediate vote of support.

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