Brandes Files Sports Betting Legislation in Florida, Could be Considered by Lawmakers in 2020

Posted on: November 18, 2019, 12:21h. 

Last updated on: November 18, 2019, 01:24h.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-FL) filed a sports betting bill today, potentially paving the way for the third-largest US state to consider permitting the activity as a means of increasing education revenue.

Florida State Sen. Jeff Brandes is looking to get his state into the sports betting arena. (Image: Florida Politics)

Brandes, who represents part of Pinellas County along the Gulf Coast, unveiled SB 968, which pertains directly to the matter of sports betting in Florida. He also introduced SB 970, a bill that addresses the licensing and fees associated with sports wagering in the state, and SB 972, legislation that outlines related taxes.

Under SB 968, the Florida Department of Lottery and other licensees would operate sports wagering there. Those wishing to participate would be subject to permit fees of $100,000 and 50/50 revenue split with the state.

A licensee may accept wagers only from persons who are 21 years of age or older and who are wagering through a website or application offered under subsection (3), and the department may accept wagers only from persons who are 21 years of age or older and who are wagering at a self-service kiosk operated by the department,” according to the proposed bill.

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers pushed legislation that would have allowed the state’s powerful Seminole tribe to offer sports betting at various Hard Rock-branded casinos throughout the state while permitting pari-mutuel operators to offer sports wagering kiosks, of which the tribe would have gotten a slice of revenue.

However, that legislation stalled as a broader revenue-sharing pact between the state and the tribe faltered. Confirming that the state and the Seminole Tribe are at a stalemate, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R-FL) $91.4 billion budget released earlier today doesn’t mention gambling revenue.

Kind Of A Big Deal

Florida, along with California and Texas, the two largest states, is seen as one of the premier destinations for legalized sports wagering because of its mix of large and growing population, number of big cities, and its status as home to nine franchises from the four major professional sports leagues. In addition, the state has top-tier college programs, such as Florida State, the University of Miami, and the University of Florida.

Brandes’s legislation was pitched just days after a consortium of California tribal operators made clear they’re pushing to get sports betting on the ballot in that state in 2020.

There are economic benefits in it for Florida. Last year, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released a study saying that legitimate sports wagering in the Sunshine State would drive about $150 million annually to state coffers, while creating 3,800 new jobs.

Brandes’s SB 972 provides for sports betting revenue being directed to Florida’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.

Still A Long Road

Brandes’s SB 968 currently doesn’t have companion legislation in the state House of Representatives, underscoring the point that while the betting public may have enthusiasm for Florida joining the list of legal sports betting states, it will take awhile for that to actually happen.

The state’s quirky legislative calendar will also play a role in the fate of Brandes’s sports betting effort.

In even numbered years, the Florida Senate meets for 60 consecutive days starting “on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in January of each even-numbered year,” according to the Senate’s web site.

That means the earliest that sports betting bills could be heard by the Florida Senate would be Jan. 14, 2020. Leaving the bills for a special session is a bet with long odds, because those legislative meetings can only be called by the governor “or by a joint proclamation issued by the Senate President and House Speaker.”

In Florida, extended or special legislative sessions must be approved by 60 percent of both houses.