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Florida could become the most populous state to offer mobile sports betting if lawmakers approve new rules

Posted at 5:49 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 17:49:26-04

TAMPA, Fla. — If lawmakers approve new gaming rules this week, it would make Florida the largest state in the nation to legalize sports betting.

A gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida would legalize mobile sports and fantasy betting, allow craps and roulette at all of their casinos, plus freedom to build three more on tribal property, including Tampa's Hard Rock — the largest of the tribe's six casinos.

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Seminole Tribe said the deal will bring more jobs, tourism and state revenue.

The American Gaming Association said the total economic impact of the gaming compact would be more than $2.6 billion each year. ABC Action News has reached out to several chambers of commerce to get a better understanding of the potential local economic impact here in the Tampa Bay area.

In the meantime, critics of the deal say it violates a 2018 constitutional amendment.

“That takes the power to legalize casino gambling away from the legislature and gives it to the people. If this is such a good deal for the state of Florida, then voters ought to have the final say on it,” said John Sowinski, President of No Casinos.

The casino industry supports 54,000 jobs in Florida, according to the American Gaming Association, but critics say this is more than just about adding jobs to the economy. It’s a big gamble they say could have long-lasting negative consequences. The president of No Casinos said the social costs of mobile sports betting outweigh any economic benefit.

“In England where they have this, more than half of all 11 to 16 year-olds have a betting app on their phones and 9% have used that app within the last week. So, this is a ticking time bomb of teen addiction to gambling,” Sowinski said.