The prospect of online poker soon becoming a reality for Florida residents via the state’s ongoing negotiations with the Seminole Tribe was dismissed entirely by Florida’s legislature on Monday. The body’s decision to remove any chance of online poker, or other forms of online casino gambling, came as the first order of business during a week-long, special session designed to debate the terms of a proposed 30-year compact deal reached last month between the Seminole Tribe and the office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
The possibility that online poker could become reality in Florida existed through what some protesting legislators described as “back door” language in the lengthy 75-page compact. The original deal included a “miscellaneous section” that called for the state and tribe to conduct good-faith negotiations over the terms and approval of legalized online gambling within 36 months of the compact being ratified.
According to a Sun-Sentinel update, Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls led the legislative battle against the possible online gambling loophole. “The House will be considering the ratification of a Seminole Compact that contains no conversation or pathway for statewide online casino gaming in Florida,” said Sprowls.
Compact’s focus remains sports betting
Though the removal of the online gambling provisions is a setback to Florida’s poker community, the compact’s larger financial emphasis remains on legalizing sports wagering in the state. It also contains what some opponents of the compact describe as “poison pill” provisions that would grant the Seminole Tribe the exclusive rights to offer sports betting in the state should any portion of the compact’s remote sports betting provision be tossed out via a court challenge.
Prominent Florida gaming attorney Daniel Wallach has continued his attacks on the compact’s terms, which he predicts will fail due to a lack of adherence to the US’s IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) and its ban on off-reservation mobile wagering. Should invalidation occur via the IGRA, the state’s pari-mutuel facilities — and not the Seminole Tribe — would take the financial hit, says Wallach.
As he recently wrote in Forbes, the invalidation of all the online sports betting provisions in the new compact deal “is the price that the State of Florida—and the pari-mutuel industry—will pay for state negotiators shortsightedly trying to avoid one nonexistent risk for a surer catastrophe under IGRA.”
Despite the legal warnings from Wallach and others, the compact remains on track to be ratified. Following removal of the online gambling language, the compact quickly passed its first vote by a near-unanimous 18-1 tally in the state Senate’s Appropriations Committee. The compact has been returned to the full Senate floor while a matching House version is also under discussion this week.