Supreme Court Gambling Ruling Not A Winning Ticket In Florida

May 15, 2018

A U.S. Supreme Court decision viewed as a major win for the gambling industry opened the door to sports betting in states across the country, but Florida almost certainly won’t be one of them — at least for now.

Monday’s decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, a case the state of New Jersey brought as a challenge to a law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, found that a federal ban on state-sanctioned sports betting is unconstitutional.

As the Supreme Court considered the case, some states filed legislation to authorize lucrative sports betting in anticipation of the federal law being struck down.

But in Florida, two major obstacles — a ballot initiative and the need for a special legislative session — stand in the way of joining states such as Mississippi and Pennsylvania, which have cleared the decks to allow gamblers to bet on professional and collegiate sports teams as soon as the NFL season begins in the fall.

A proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot will allow Florida voters to decide if they want to control decisions about gambling, something now largely left up to the Legislature. If Amendment 3 passes, voters statewide would have to sign off on future gambling expansions.

Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who has been a lead negotiator on gambling issues for several years, told The News Service of Florida on Monday the high court ruling won’t have an immediate impact on Florida, where sports betting is illegal.

“The ruling does not automatically change the gaming landscape in Florida,” said Galvano, a lawyer who will take over as Senate president after the November elections. “I believe it will create more interest in pursuing some types of sports betting, on behalf of the pari-mutuels as well as the (Seminole) tribe and some independent entities. But all of that is overshadowed by the pending constitutional amendment, which may create tremendous obstacles for any type of sports betting to come into the state.”

Galvano and his House counterpart, Miami Lakes Republican Jose Oliva, last month raised the possibility of a special session to address perpetually elusive gambling issues but abandoned the notion after Gov. Rick Scott secured a yearlong gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe. The agreement is focused on the tribe’s promise to continue making payments to the state in exchange for “exclusivity” over “banked” card games, such as blackjack.

A special session in reaction to Monday’s court decision is “very unlikely,” Galvano said.

Florida’s gambling operators could lose out on big bucks if the state doesn’t get into the sports-betting game.

“The economic impact of allowing sports betting cannot be understated: Legal sports betting in Las Vegas takes in over $5 billion each year, and most estimates put the value of illegal sports betting in the United States at up to $100 billion,” Amy Howe wrote on the SCOTUSblog website, which closely covers Supreme Court cases, after Monday’s decision.

Sports gambling is “a benefit for anybody with a tourist-based economy,” Marc Dunbar, an attorney who represents the gambling industry and who teaches gambling law at Florida State University, told the News Service.

“Florida’s going to miss out. Mississippi is going to implement it, and it’s going to benefit the Biloxi casinos on the coast. Unfortunately, our hoteliers and our resorts and casinos won’t be able to benefit from that,” he said.

The proposed constitutional amendment would make it harder for Floridians to have sports gambling, said Dunbar, a Tallahassee-based partner with the law firm Jones Walker.

“This would probably be another reason why folks should vote against Amendment 3. If you want to have sports gambling in Florida, you probably want to vote no on Amendment 3,” he said.

But John Sowinski, the chairman of Voters in Charge, a political committee behind the amendment, called the court ruling another reason to support the proposed constitutional amendment because the measure would give voters a say in gambling activities.

“A lot of people in Florida would be relieved to know that, if we’re going to have sports gambling in this state, it’s going to happen by design of Florida voters, not by Tallahassee politicians and gambling lobbyists,” he said.

If the amendment doesn’t pass, sports betting will become an integral component of the Legislature’s discussions about thorny gambling issues, which some have likened to a three-dimensional game of chess even without the latest gambling twist.

“I’m just letting things play out. We’ll see what happens in November,” Galvano said.

by Dara Kam with contribution from Tom Urban, The News Service of Florida


4 Responses to “Supreme Court Gambling Ruling Not A Winning Ticket In Florida”

  1. Bob C. on May 16th, 2018 7:27 pm

    @ Robert Hinton

    “SCORE” on your last line: “The part that shocks me about all this is those that will vote no and then hop in their cars and head to Biloxi. Be smart and look after our local economy.”

    I know of ministers, Government Leaders, High Level business people and you name it, everyone from Mayors to Elected and Appointed Officials will proudly talk about their trips to Biloxi or Las Vegas NV to gamble on all sorts of tables or machines or sports.

    Why I’ve even heard of something called “Cow Patty Bingo” as a fund raiser.
    Yep, people will bet on how much rain will fall.
    Robert, your point is Well Made and I’ll bet lots of folks agree.

  2. ROBERT HINTON on May 16th, 2018 9:44 am

    If people want to gamble they will gamble. This would bring much needed tourism and jobs. The lotto, dog betting, horse betting, and card games already exist.

    The govt cuts deals w certain groups when it suits them so their opinions should be disregarded.

    The part that shocks me about all this is those that will vote no and then hop in their cars and head to Biloxi. Be smart and look after our local economy.

  3. Grand Locust on May 15th, 2018 9:18 am

    Be extremely careful. Some of the groups pushing for this change are now running off shore sites and running book. They have a couple of layers of lobbyist, but they are looking to hit the jackpot with already proven systems. In some states like New Jersey and Illinois it is alleged the mob and those off shore gambling sites are the biggest supporter of this legislation. I think rather than feeding the mob more money, start with the content creators getting 10%. If somebody bets on an auburn game, 10% goes to the football conference which redistributes the same which should include expansion of cash stipends for college athletes in addition to their scholarship. Take some of the illicit profit out and get it into the NBA, NFL, golf, NHL, soccer, boxing. It should start with reinsurance pool from those resources which give lifetime incomes for those with spinal injuries and brain trauma. I do not want Vito getting more cash to support distribution of drugs and violence.

  4. mike on May 15th, 2018 6:04 am

    umm…there is horse racing betting in Florida, so sports gambling is already here. for the state to make differences is nonsense, it’s all gambling. for the state to make deals with one group or another, like the Seminoles, is very telling, not to put too fine a point on it. us Floridians voted to allow gambling here, or voted for pols that allowed it. and we will reap the harvest this has sown, good or bad. :)

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