The Status of Florida’s Gambling Legislation

The Status of Florida's Gambling Legislation

The United States is going through a turbulent period when it comes to the legality of gambling. The Supreme Court ruling of 2018 was a landmark moment, pushing legislative power back to the state level for sports betting. 

This ruling has had wide-ranging repercussions, and for those who are proponents of the legalization of gambling, it is undoubtedly a positive development. Ever since New Jersey became the first state to regulate sports betting, other states are increasingly pushing to legalize various forms of gambling, reaching far beyond just sports. But for the Sunshine State, changes have been limited.

Florida in Context: The Countrywide Status 

Let’s begin by placing Florida into context a little bit. Florida is not the gambling powerhouse of states like Nevada. Nevertheless, the 2018 Supreme Court case was expected to push Florida to make some changes. The reality has thus far been very different. 

New Jersey was the biggest mover immediately following the ruling. It’s no surprise, as the state was centrally involved in the court battle. The result? Online sports betting is now entirely legal. No grey areas, no caveats. If you’re in New Jersey, you can place a wager on your favorite team.  

Other states quickly followed suit, and now the list stands at 18 states plus D.C. These include Illinois, Montana, and West Virginia. Other states, such as Washington and North Carolina, have passed relevant bills. 9 states have active bills, while another 19 either have failed or have no legislation. 

Florida, however, is grouped in the failed legislation category. But that doesn’t mean the state isn’t trying. Senators Wilton Simpson and Jeff Brandes have both been working behind the scenes to introduce sports betting legislation but have so far been unsuccessful. We expect Florida to keep pushing to legalize sports and online gambling in the future. 

But Is It Legal to Gamble? 

In short, it’s illegal to gamble in Florida. However, there are enough legal exceptions that gambling is still a flourishing business in the state: 


  • Cruise ships. This is an innovative way to circumvent state gambling regulations, with cruise ships essentially going into international waters. This allows gamblers to wager without falling foul of state laws. 


  • State lottery. Approved in 1986, the state lottery is a popular legalized form of gambling. Floridians can choose between local state games and multi-state options like the famous Mega Millions. The downside? You need to buy your ticket in person. 
  • Seminole Tribe casinos. The Seminole tribe has an agreement with the state of Florida which allows it to operate legal casinos. There are currently 6 open Seminole casinos, including the famous Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. 



    • Horse and Greyhound racing. It’s legal, but limited to a select few licensed facilities.


  • Poker. It’s legal, but restricted. Limit yourself to Seminole establishments, or pari-mutuel race tracks. You can also play with friends (so-called ‘social gambling’), but you are limited to small stakes. Specifically, you can only bet $10. 


Online Gambling: It’s Tricky  

Just like in many other states in the country, online gambling falls into a bit of a ‘grey zone’. It’s technically illegal, so we do not recommend that you partake in any form of online gambling. 

However, in practice, it’s possible to place a bet. You just need to find a legal casino willing to take your Florida cash. The situation may change, however, with many politicians fighting for the legalization of online gambling. 

The same can be said for sports betting. Progress has stalled, with sports betting not yet legal across the board. If you want to place an online sports bet, the risk lies entirely with the player. 

The Tax Situation 

One of the reasons we think that Florida will change its tune is the state’s need for tax revenue. The current setup is a revenue-sharing agreement with the local Seminole tribe. This nets Florida approximately $300 million per year. This is based on roughly $2.5 billion in gambling revenues from tribal casinos, and $500 million-plus from non-tribal establishments. 

Legalizing sports and online gambling will up the state’s income significantly. Experts predict a tripling of revenues, with projected numbers hovering around the $10 billion mark. 

Considering the heavy toll the state is currently paying as a result of coronavirus, we expect that many politicians that have so far been hesitant may change their position. It may not be tenable to forgo such a significant amount of much-needed tax revenue, much of which can go into struggling medical and educational programs. 

2021: What 2020 Was Supposed to Become? 

The legislative momentum was lost to Covid-19, and the expected big changes for betting never truly materialized. Sure, there has been some progress, but much was curtailed as a result of the global shutdown. 

Our prediction? 2021 will be what 2020 was supposed to be. As long as coronavirus restrictions are lifted to the point of being able to do business on a somewhat ‘normal’ level (granted, this is a big if), we expect legislators to push harder on legalizing gambling across the board.




Spread the love
Posted in: Law
  • Archives:

  • Categories:

  • Tags: