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U.S. Supreme Court Opens the Door to Legalizing Sports Betting In Florida and Elsewhere


On May 14th, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a federal law that banned sports betting in almost every state. Specifically, the law prohibited states from authorizing and licensing sports gambling, which involves allowing gamblers to bet on everything from which team is going to win a game, to what each player will specifically do. The Court ultimately found that the law violated the anti-commandeering rule of the U.S. Constitution.

This ruling could now open the door to sports betting in Florida if the state legislature or voters (by referendum) authorize it. The Court ultimately found that each state is free to act on its own when Congress elects not to regulate sports gambling directly.


Some are concerned that the decision could end up normalizing an activity that could turn into addictive gambling for kids and/or those who already live in poverty, involving the government in an activity that already exacerbates an overall lack of mobility out of poverty. 

Hurdles at State & Federal Level

There is already a proposal on Florida’s November ballot (titled the “Voter Control of Gambling amendment”), which would mandate that a voter referendum be in place before this type of gambling could become legal in the state of Florida. This same ballot measure could also make it illegal for any future casino expansion to take place without voter approval first. Specifically, the amendment makes casino card games, anything classified as a “Class 3 game” under federal law, and slot-like games subject to voter approval.

Florida also has an existing compact with the Seminole Tribe, which, although currently in limbo, gives the tribe exclusive rights to running card games such as blackjack. Whether/how sports betting could impact this compact remains to be seen, and could be subject to negotiation. Currently, the Seminole Tribe pays a reported more than $250 million per year to secure these exclusive rights to slots outside of South Florida.

Until then, the issue is up in the air, as the Florida Legislature does not meet again until March 2019. It is also noteworthy that areas such as Tallahassee are known for making any voting surrounding gambling contentious.

It is also notable that there is already legislation pending before Congress that would allow Congress to regulate sports betting at the federal level, thus negating the Court’s decision that each state can adopt its own rules if Congress fails to directly regulate the activity.

Florida Criminal Defense & Civil Rights Lawyer

If you have been accused of violating a federal or state law involving gambling, and/or your civil rights have been violated, contact our experienced Orlando criminal defense and civil rights lawyers at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.


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