Attorney explains why legalized sports betting in Florida is still in limbo

Sports betting expert Daniel Wallach details legal issues on ‘The Weekly’

As the NFL season gets underway, fans in 30 states can place legal wagers on their favorite matchups. That’s not the case in Florida, though, as the deal between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe remains tied up in federal court. Daniel Wallach, a gaming attorney and sports betting expert, joined anchor Justin Warmoth on “The Weekly” to break down why the deal is facing legal challenges.

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the NFL season gets underway, fans in 30 states can place legal wagers on their favorite matchups.

That’s not the case in Florida, though, as the deal between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe remains tied up in federal court.

Daniel Wallach, a gaming attorney and sports betting expert, joined anchor Justin Warmoth on “The Weekly” to break down why the deal is facing legal challenges.

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“It was so obvious from the outset that this compact violated federal law,” Wallach said. “It’s called the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and it governs the conduct of gaming on Indian lands and nowhere else.”

The 30-year compact, which was announced by the governor last year, essentially gave the tribe control over Florida’s gambling kingdom, but Wallach said the deal exceeded the boundaries of what’s allowed under IGRA by including online sports gaming.

The “hub-and-spoke” sports-betting plan was designed to allow gamblers to place a bet online with the bets going through computer servers on tribal land.

“By trying to shoehorn online sports betting through a federally regulated and federally authorized compact, they were taking a possible violation of state law and transforming it to an almost definite violation of federal law,” Wallach said. “It’s incomprehensible to me that the state would make that calculation, and not only that, but grant a monopoly to a single stakeholder in the state of Florida.”

The state law Wallach’s referencing is Amendment 3, which was approved by Florida voters in 2018. The ballot initiative makes it impossible for future legislatures to legalize Florida sports betting without working with the Seminole Tribe.

“What was really surprising to me is that the state of Florida was so spooked by the prospects of litigation over Amendment 3, they ended up authorizing sports betting that was even more illegal,” Wallach said. “I’ve always taken the position that casino gambling, as it’s defined under this constitutional amendment, does not include sports betting. It only includes the types of games typically found in casinos: slot machines, roulette, craps.”

With the legal status of Amendment 3 being somewhat ambiguous, the tribe went ahead and rolled out a Hard Rock sports betting app in November 2021 before shutting it down barely a month later following the court ruling.

As the case works its way through the Federal Court of Appeals, Wallach believes it’ll be a few years before there’s any resolution in the court system.

“The clearest path to sports betting in Florida is, in all likelihood, through the ballot initiative process,” Wallach said. “That seems to be the most realistic path forward for both retail and online sports betting, which means, as a practical matter, the first legal bet in Florida likely won’t be made until 2025.”

Watch the full interview in the video player above.


About the Author:

Justin Warmoth joined News 6 in February 2013 as our Brevard County reporter. In March of 2016, after anchoring the weekend mornings since August of 2015, Justin was promoted to weekday morning anchor. You can catch him Monday through Friday mornings from 5-7 a.m. and at noon.