Some concerned state gambling deal could lead to online, mobile betting

Published: April 28, 2021 6:02 PM EDT
Updated: April 28, 2021 6:18 PM EDT

A landmark gambling deal is changing the game inside Florida casinos, but it could also open the door for more online betting.

Gov. Ron DeSantis generated lots of excitement in the state when he signed a new deal with the Seminole Tribe recently to bring — among other things — sports betting to Florida.

“As people dig deeper, I think there’s sort of a growing concern that we might not be seeing this roll out quite as quickly as had initially been thought,” said John Holden, a sports betting expert.

Holden believes the real issue here, as he and his colleagues see it, is the legality of mobile sports betting — doing it right on your phone.

Daniel Wallach, a sports betting attorney, backs him up.

“This notion that we’re going to have state law, statewide mobile betting, it’s mythical,” Wallach said.

Holden didn’t go quite as far. He told us the best chance to make it happen is if U.S. lawmakers pass legislation.

Wallach agrees.

However, this deal is between the state and Seminole Tribe alone.

The governor has maintained the state and the tribe are willing and able to fight any legal battles ahead.

If they win, Holden told us that could open the door to mobile betting and almost anything else.

“If should we be able to remove these concerns around mobile betting, those concerns apply also to online casino online poker, so being able to resolve those issues, for one, likely resolves the issues for the other at least … It’d be huge,” Holden said. “That’s a monumental amount of money to the state that, you know, there’s not a lot of funding options to sort of create that surplus that wasn’t there yesterday, that doesn’t involve raising taxes.”

We also spoke to organization No Casinos, a group that works to halt gambling expansion in Florida. The organization plans to challenge this pact. The president of the group told us they are incredibly concerned about what mobile casinos would mean for gambling addicts.

State senators and representatives are expected to approve the deal at a special session May 17, and then, it goes to the federal government.