DraftKings and FanDuel are beloved DFS operators and have fans in the tens of millions nationwide.
Now, with that clout, they appear to be attempting something no government has ever been able to achieve over the last 300-plus years: control the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
After Florida violated its 2010 gambling compact with the tribe, the Seminole withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in annual slot share revenue.
The state, desperate for that sweet, sweet cash, finally agreed to everything requested by the Seminole, with the Seminole giving up nothing.
The Seminole got exclusive sports betting rights in the state, and they were also granted the right to host actual craps and roulette in their casinos.
Many analysts thought that it would be either-or: The state would “give” the Seminole these two additional table games in return for allowing commercial entrants into the Florida sports betting market.
But that’s not how it works, and the Seminole never backed down.
Now, they got everything they demanded, including an apparent non-authorization of online sports betting in the state.
The rationale for that is simple: Online sports betting would reduce traffic to the Seminole’s land-based casinos and thus reduce slot and table game revenue.
Casinos make very little money off sports betting, and the Seminole are insistent that bettors should travel to their properties to wager on all the games of the day.
With their winnings burning a hole in their pocket, those bettors will parlay said wins into losses on the gambling floor.
Of course, major commercial betting operators like DraftKings and FanDuel oppose this, because it locks them out of the industry in Florida.
After all, the Seminole own and operate the global Hard Rock brand, and they’ve already got their own sportsbook software partner (Scientific Games).
Naturally, the two DFS players want to force the issue, and they’re petitioning the state to put commercial sports betting before voters in the next election.
The constitutional amendment proposed by the two sportsbook giants would alter the Florida gambling landscape by allowing retail betting at professional sports venues, pari-mutuel venues, and via online sports betting apps. They hope to get backing from the state with promises that proceeds would go to fund “education” initiatives.
Per Gary Bitner, spokesman for Seminole Gaming, the move by DraftKings and FanDuel is DOA. He called it a “political Hail Mary from out-of-state corporations trying to interfere with the business of the people of Florida.”
Further, says Bitner:
“They couldn’t stop Florida’s new gaming compact, which passed by an overwhelming 88 percent ‘yes’ from Florida’s elected legislators and enjoys 3-to-1 support from Floridians and guarantees $2.5 billion in revenue sharing [over the next five years]. The guarantee is the largest commitment by any gaming in US history.”
Here’s the reality:
If this garbage gets on the ballot – and it might – that simply means that Florida legislators can lawfully expand the gambling market to include online sports betting.
What it wouldn’t guarantee, however, is that legislators would actually craft those regulations. And they wouldn’t.
Because DraftKings and FanDuel wouldn’t be able to generate as much revenue for the state in 10 years of online sports betting that the Seminole can generate for the state in a single year of land-based gambling.
And if the state violates its compact with the Seminole again, that money will be gone forever.
The Seminole are undefeated, unconquered, and fearless. The richest armies in human history couldn’t beat them, and these two sportsbook companies can’t, either.
Bottom line: Online domestic sports betting will come to FL only when the Seminole allow it to. Until then, you’ll only be able to bet sports legally over the Internet (and play legal online casino games) with reputable offshore betting sites.
For the fantasy sports operators in question, this idea that they can muscle their way into Florida at the expense of the Seminole is right in their wheelhouse:
It is a fantasy.