Is Sports Betting Illegal in Florida?

September 8, 2022 Criminal Defense

Football season is about to begin which means many people across the United States are starting to draft their fantasy football teams. Aside from fantasy football, many Americans enjoy betting on various sports, either online or in person.

But is sports betting legal in Florida? If not, what penalties are associated with illegal sports betting? We’ll cover everything you need to know in our article.

The Supreme Court’s 2018 Decision

In 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States opened the door to legalizing sports betting when it allowed states to make their own decisions on the legality of such activities. The decision struck down the existing federal law that prohibited professional sports gambling. It was a 6 to 3 decision that officially struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), passed by Congress in the 1990s in an effort to protect the integrity of sports, as stated by sponsors of the Act. The only state protected before the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision was Nevada.

Inherent to the Court’s holding was the finding that PASPA violates states’ rights and power to legislate for themselves when Congress had not preempted such activity with their own statute. Essentially, the Court decided that the legality of sports betting was “not [theirs] to make” and would be better left to the states, leaving them “free to act on [their] own.”

Where Does that Leave Florida?

As of August 2022, sports betting was legal in more than two dozen states across the nation. However, there are distinctions drawn between online and in-person betting, with most states only legalizing betting that takes place in the flesh rather than behind a screen.

Unfortunately for sport-betting fans, Florida is not amongst states that have legalized either form of sports betting. Sports betting, both online and in-person, remains illegal in Florida, despite a period of legalized in-person betting in 2021 that was later struck down by a federal judge after a deal occurred between Florida and the Seminole Tribe fell apart.

Florida sports fans enjoyed a brief period of legal sports betting, three weeks to be exact, before the Seminole Tribe, which controls in-person betting and gambling in Florida, alleged such betting violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and has had Florida in a legal battle over online betting since that time. Until the finalization of the legal proceedings between Florida and the Seminole Tribe, sports betting remains illegal in Florida. Bad news for anyone holding their breath – there are currently no arguments regarding sports betting slated in Florida for the rest of the year.

The Legal Battle

While the lawsuit continues, there are no physical sportsbooks where Floridians can bet on sports in the Seminole-owned Hard Rock Casino sites. Meanwhile, large sports-betting and fantasy-draft sites, FanDuel and DraftKings, attempted to prepare an initiative to get sports betting on the November 2022 ballot in Florida. However, their hopes were dashed as the window to get the initiative on the 2022 ballot passed. Despite their efforts, the initiative received only 514,841 of the required 891,599 verified signatures necessary to secure a place on the ballot for 2022. However, the companies are still confident in a 2024 ballot initiative that could result in legal sports betting in Florida by 2025. 

Where Can I Bet on Sports in Florida?

The short answer – nowhere. The only legal gambling sites in Florida are casinos owned by the Seminole Tribe, but sports betting is still impermissible even at such casinos. Betting online is equally prohibited. Additionally, big-name websites like Draft Kings are still prohibited from sports betting in Florida.

Florida’s Gambling Statute

Florida’s gambling statute is codified in Chapter 849 of the Florida Statute and states that betting money or items of value on sports, contests, or anything similar is illegal in Florida unless the activity is excepted under Chapters 849, 550, and 551. The Florida Supreme Court has held for decades that it is not important whether those betting are “the actors in the vent upon which their wager is laid or not.” This means that you cannot even bet on yourself in a contest, sport, or otherwise.

The statute, Section 849.14 of the Florida Statutes states: “[w]hoever stakes, bets or wagers any money or other thing of value upon the result of any trial or contest of skill, speed or power or endurance of human or beast, or whoever receives in any manner whatsoever any money or other thing of value staked, bet or wagered, or offered for the purpose of being staked, bet or wagered, by or for any other person upon any such result, or whoever knowingly becomes the custodian or depositary of any money or other thing of value so staked, bet, or wagered upon any such result, or whoever aids, or assists, or abets in any manner in any of such acts all of which are hereby forbidden, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”

Florida Gambling or Sports Betting Penalties

In Florida, illegal gambling, like sports betting, is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor charge. If convicted, the offense is punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 60 days, probation, and a fine of up to $500.

Depending on the circumstances of each case a person could face additional charges such as “keeping a gambling house” or “renting out the location to gamble,” which can make the penalties you face more severe. Keep in mind that Florida can impose stricter penalties for subsequent offenders.

Sport Betting & Gambling Defenses

While sports betting and other gambling charges are normally misdemeanor offenses, a skilled legal team may still be able to assist and defend you. Some legal strategies that may be appropriate based on the facts of your case include:

  • The activity involved a drawing by chance set up by a nonprofit organization,
  • A giveaway that was not conditioned upon voluntary donations or contributions,
  • The person convicting erroneously identified you,
  • There is not enough evidence to prove each and every element of the offense,
  • The offense was a result of an unlawful search and seizure.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

While betting on sports and gambling can be a thrilling rush of fun, the penalties for illegal betting and gambling are anything but. If you or a loved one has been charged with a gambling crime in Florida, focus on retaining an experienced and qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorneyDon Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have the experience and passion to zealously defend and protect our clients. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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