Florida Real Money Online Gambling Guide
Florida is far from Nevada as far as gambling revenues go, but Florida is a lot bigger state than Nevada and gets a lot of out-of-state tourists as well. Florida already takes in $112 billion a year in tourism revenue, behind only Texas and California and ahead of Nevada in spite of all of its gambling tourism.
While Florida is pretty well-stocked compared to some states as far as places to gamble go, they currently find themselves stuck between the world of tribal-only gaming and the all-out approach that Las Vegas takes, and much of this has to do with the battle in this state being between the Seminole tribe and racetrack owners.
Florida will only achieve its potential when it becomes more open to allow big out-of-state operators into the conversation, the same people that rule the Las Vegas strip as well as other major gambling locations. It’s not that Florida isn’t making progress with this, but it is coming very slowly.
Slow is a good word to describe the evolution of regulated real money online gambling in Florida, as they struggle to put together a plan to join the rush toward legal sports betting. Almost half of all states have passed legislation legalizing sports betting, but Florida is still mulling it over.
Florida already has a pretty vibrant gambling scene going on already though. Read on while we take you on a little tour as well as share what changes may be on the horizon for Florida.
History of Gambling in Florida
Florida first got into legalizing gambling back in 1931 in a tightly contested bill that won ascent by a single vote in the Florida legislature. This was at a time where pari-mutuel betting on horses and greyhounds was starting to gain more traction, and this gave birth to a vibrant industry that still plays a very prominent role in the Florida gambling scene today.
In 1935, this was expanded to include betting on Jai Alai games, a Spanish sport that has been very popular in Florida over the years, due to the state’s strong Spanish roots and their being a former Spanish colony. Florida still has live Jai Alai games at its racetracks, and some have even abandoned the dogs and ponies completely to use their tracks for Jai Alai full time, that’s how popular the game is in Florida.
The idea of allowing betting on live sporting events was plenty avant-garde in 1935, and still is today. While Nevada has offered betting on human played sports for a very long time, Florida’s Jai Alai betting would be like going to a ball game and betting on it right at the stadium, an idea that still horrifies sports leagues, who oppose sports betting and would never allow it at their games.
Betting on sports in Florida has been confined to betting on horse and dog racing and Jai Alai for all these years, and in spite of their historic openness to what they have now, opening up sports betting in the state is still in the discussion stage. The fact that 3 bills have been tabled already to get this idea off the ground is at least encouraging, but more support needs to be drummed up for this before it will ever see the light of day.
Florida also has allowed charitable games since 1970, and also got into operating a lottery back in 1980. Home games are permitted provided that the winnings do not exceed $10, although this is not an easy rule to enforce.
As was the case elsewhere, Indian casinos hit Florida once federally recognized tribes were recognized as having the power to build casinos on their land without the permission of the various states, and tribal casinos are very big business in Florida. Instead of just deferring to the Indians and allowing them a monopoly on casino games, Florida ended up allowing their racetracks to operate as casinos as well, which became termed “racinos” as they offered both racing and Jai Alai and various casino games.
Players in Florida can now enjoy casino games at both tribal casinos, and to a lesser degree, at racinos as well, and the two are in a battle with the state to seek more favorable treatment. The tribes want to limit the racinos, and the racinos want to add more games and compete better, and there is a lot of money on the line.
Florida Gambling Laws
Florida law at least seeks to provide a blanket prohibition against gambling overall, and at first glance, we may think that they have succeeded in doing this. The statute at least prohibits casino games when it states that “whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.”
The fact that faro is one of the enumerated games shows how old this statute is, as this has not been popular since the 19th century. Their use of “by any device whatsoever” actually succeeds to include prohibiting playing games of chance online, given that it is played by way of a device of some sort. This is distinct from some states using the concept of a gambling device, where computers cannot really be held to be a gambling device per se, designed specifically for this purpose, but are definitely devices that can be used to gamble, and therefore fall within the purview of this statute.
Florida also bans betting on sports in another section, where it is unlawful to bet on any contest of skill. This section is clearly aimed at sports betting and not poker, as some believe, as the contests described here deal with ones based purely on skill rather than with a significant element of chance as is the case with poker.
This leaves whether the Florida Penal Code bans poker or not as a matter of whether poker is to be understood as a game of chance as stipulated in the law, and this issue comes up in several other states who have sought to outlaw games of chance but have not provided any clear direction as to whether poker is to be included. Poker is at least not a game of chance in the same way that the other described games are, but this comes down to how a game of chance is to be defined.
Aside from the law not permitting real money casino games and sports betting generally, it sets provisions that serve as exclusions, which comes down to forms that the state government has explicitly approved. This includes the state lottery, charitable games, betting on horses, dogs, and Jai Alai, and has now been expanded to offering racetracks the ability to offer both electronic games such as slots and video poker, live poker, and now even some forms of casino poker like Ultimate Texas Hold’em being offered at racinos.
Florida gambling laws continue to evolve, although the fact that both the Indian casinos, run by the Seminole tribe, who host a massive operation, and the racinos, have such a strong say in the expansion of the Florida gambling market may be concerning. However, Florida does require that major changes be subject to public referenda, so democracy still does have a strong say in the matter.
Land-Based Gambling in Florida
While Indian casinos are commonplace throughout the United States, they tend to be on the smallish side, nothing compared to the big casinos of Las Vegas and even Atlantic City. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is no small-time operator though.
Aside from operating 6 casinos in the state of Florida, 2 of them being Hard Rock brand casinos, the Seminoles actually own the Hard Rock brand themselves, which they bought for $965 million back in 2007. They recently spent $1.5 billion upgrading the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL, to give you an idea of the scale of their operations.
They once lent the State of Florida $1.1 billion in exchange for the exclusive rights to offer blackjack in the state, and while that ended up being determined unconstitutional, they also have been making annual payments to the state in a pact that is now being withheld in a current dispute between the tribe paying them to maintain what monopoly they still enjoy while seeing it continue to be eroded by the state allowing racinos to expand their operations.
Each of the six Seminole reservations operate a casino, in addition to one operated by the Miccosukee tribe, which broke off from the Seminoles to form their own tribe many years ago. It is not the Miccosukee that concerns the Seminoles, it is the growing business of 28 race tracks in Florida that have been allowed to convert to part race track part casino, leading to them now being called racinos.
The Seminoles and the State of Florida have an agreement where the tribe pays $350 million to the state in exchange for a monopoly on banked table games. The State ended up allowing table games at racinos that were banked not by the house as normal table games are but by a “designated player.” A Florida court found that even though this may be a sly way to get around the stipulation of the State’s compact with the Seminoles, player-banked games still constitute banked table games regardless of whether players or the house are the bankers.
The two sides got together in 2019 to carve out a new agreement, with the Seminoles upping the annual payment to $500 million, in exchange for the State revoking the racino table games, but Governor DeSantis refused to sign it, leaving the State with the option to further expand gaming at racinos without having to worry about the Seminoles anymore.
While the State will lose these huge annual payments, this opens things wide open for full service casinos off tribal lands, and is not only good for the racinos, it will also benefit players who wish to see the game selection at these racinos further expanded.
With one of the biggest Indian casino operations in the country, and 28 semi-casinos at racetracks which may end up offering even more casino action at some point in the near future, including these fairly new player-banked table games, and the real possibility now of casino-banked games like blackjack and roulette, plus the lottery, racing, and Jai Alai to bet on, Floridians already have a lot of land-based gambling scattered throughout their state, with perhaps more to come soon.
Florida Online Casinos & Slots Gambling
A state could have a law that could make it as plain as day that online gambling is against the law, and some states actually do, but the truth is that this really does not make a practical difference. The most a state can do is hope that people will simply obey any laws that they have against online gambling, or do what the federal government has and make it harder to move money in and out of offshore real money gambling sites, but none of this is effective at all at stopping anyone in Florida or anywhere in the United States from gambling online all they like.
Florida’s law against gambling comes pretty close to achieving the end of banning all of it, as if you engage in games of chance for money or place bets on the outcome of contests, you are breaking Florida law. Even the keenest legal eyes aren’t going to find anything that even suggests that these two forms of gambling are prohibited in Florida, although whether poker is included in this law is another matter entirely. We’re left to guess as to whether or not poker qualifies as a game of chance, but given that all of the enumerated games are all purely games of chance, including poker in “other games of chance” may be a stretch.
However, this really doesn’t matter, as laws against online gambling just aren’t enforceable. There’s only one effective way to prevent online gambling, and only one country has successfully done so, North Korea, who does not allow its people either computers or access to the internet. Other than that, you just can’t stop people from doing it if they wish.
Florida is basically in the same situation that a lot of states are, who may have laws that either suggest or even explicitly prohibit online gambling for real money, and people just do it anyway. While the UIGEA did eliminate the use of credit cards, internet wallets, and other popular ways of funding online gambling accounts, offshore gambling sites stepped up and started accepting off the grid payment methods such as sending a person to person Western Union payment to one of their staff, or now, accepting Bitcoin, which is by nature anonymous and perfect for this type of activity.
Florida is one of the states that have taken a fresh look at offering online sports betting once the federal government called off their dogs in regard to trying to use the Wire Act against them, but while some states have already jumped in and legalized it, Florida is still at the talking stage. They will need a referendum to see this happen one day, but given Florida’s above average comfort with gambling, this is a realistic possibility.
Meanwhile, sports bettors can comfort themselves with the fact that the Wire Act only ever applied to operators and not players, and offshore operators aren’t subject to U.S. law at all, so aside from convicting foreign operators in absentia, or a few Americans who were foolish enough to take on the federal government, they certainly do not have to worry about the Feds being able to do anything to them. The State of Florida could theoretically, but neither have the will nor the means, so players in Florida who have helped themselves here do not have to wait until Florida gets its act together because there plenty of places to play already.
Future of Gambling in Florida
It’s not hard to imagine how things could be improved as far as the land-based gambling scene goes, and it’s the state looking to expand non-tribal casino gaming in the state that is the matter at hand. They are on a path to this and even the princely sum of $500 million a year, a bribe essentially, was not enough to take them off this present course.
Florida needs to go bigger than just enabling racinos more, which are at best a second class gambling operation due to their being primarily built for dog and horse racing. It is certainly a plus to have them offer all those slots and poker tables, and perhaps even full-fledged table gaming, but the real money is made at big casino hotels, and this is why the Seminole tribe can be so generous with their kickbacks, because there’s a lot more than just the gambling revenue that is at stake.
Any major changes to the gambling scene in Florida will require majority support among voters, and neither the Seminoles nor the racinos would welcome this, so any changes will certainly meet some strong opposition from lobbyists. It is hard to imagine though that Florida passed up on half a billion dollars per year just because they wanted to have racinos maintaining their player-banked tables, as this doesn’t amount to anywhere near as much money for anyone, and they seem to have much bigger plans than this, more Hard Rock size facilities built by even bigger gambling concerns.
None of this is around the corner though, but one day we may see Florida’s coast boasting some pretty big casino hotels, and Florida would be a natural place to build a new Las Vegas in fact. With Florida’s tourism being so attractive already, the potential to really grow land-based gambling in Florida remains a real possibility, when they are ready.
Floridians will also need to be patient with any expansion of gambling into the online realm by the State, and perhaps even more patient than those waiting for a major expansion of land-based gambling, because this tends to come first. Nevada and New Jersey both have a lot of big casino hotels, and you generally need to be open to that sort of thing first before you seriously entertain turning the state itself into one big gambling portal.
On the other hand, saying no to the Seminoles and their boatload of money is a step in the right direction toward regulating online casino games. Sports betting will almost certainly come first, as it has in several other states now, and Florida may also try out online poker first before opening things up with casino games, but it may just be a matter of time before we see all this happen in Florida.
Florida Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
Does Florida permit real money gambling?
Florida law makes it a crime to place bets on games of chance or on sporting events or other contests. Florida has had a state lottery for 40 years though, and has had dog and horse racing, and even live sports betting on Jai Alai, so it’s not that you can’t gamble legally with real money in Florida. Rather, gambling is outlawed unless otherwise permitted by Florida law, and Florida permits quite a bit of it, including a significant amount of non-tribal gaming.
Does Florida have real money casinos?
Florida boasts 7 tribal casinos, including two Hard Rock Casino Hotels, in Hollywood and Tampa, all offering full-service casino gaming. Florida also has racetracks that have added slots and poker as well as player-banked casino poker, where you can bet on horses or greyhounds as well as on live Jai-Alai games. These racetracks are called racinos, and there are currently 28 racinos in the state, bringing the total of places that you can play casino at to 35.
Can you play real money live poker in Florida?
Florida has a good selection of live poker at both their tribal casinos and at many of their racinos. Poker generally takes a big back seat to casino games at a casino, where poker typically comprises a very small portion of a casino’s floor space, but is prominently featured in Florida. Poker lovers can enjoy their favorite game at 28 different locations throughout the state boasting over 400 poker tables. Florida also permits social poker games with pots of $10 or less, although this isn’t really monitored that closely.
Is it legal to play online poker in Florida?
Florida law bans residents from betting on games of chance without explicit permission and regulation. Whether poker can be understood as a game of chance for the purposes of laws that outlaw games of chance generally without mentioning the game is a question that the law in several states is not clear on, including Florida. Games of chance suggest games where the outcome of wages does depend on chance, and not simply ones that have an element of chance like poker.
Can Floridians play online casino games legally?
When it comes to betting on things that are actually games of chance, without any doubt, Florida law does clearly ban these unless otherwise allowed. This means that they reserve the right to tell you if and when you can gamble at games of chance, and thus far, they have not allowed any of this. There currently does not appear to be much of an appetite for online casino regulation in Florida, although this may change in the coming years.
Has anyone been arrested for online gambling in Florida?
A Florida couple got arrested in August of 2020 for running a bogus bingo game online, where they collected buy-ins from a number of players through a Facebook site but never ran the bingo game they were supposed to. While this was portrayed as an online gambling arrest, no gambling even took place, and this was brought to the attention of authorities by those who were frauded. No one gets arrested for actual gambling online, but trying to set up an online gambling portal in Florida can get you in trouble, especially if it is fraudulent.
Is Florida planning on expanding its legal sports betting?
Florida has had legal sports betting since the 1930’s, as long as you were content to bet on the game of Jai Alai. It’s still legal to bet on these games in Florida, although they are at least now discussing expanding this to allow their residents to bet on other games. 23 states and D.C. have already jumped on the legal sports betting bandwagon, with Florida, who have been historically more open to gambling than many, still sitting on their hands. We’ll have to wait a while to see what they end up deciding.
Can you gamble online at safe and regulated sites while in Florida?
Without the existence of state regulated online gambling, players can still travel outside the state virtually to enjoy gambling online for real money at a number of well-trusted online gambling portals. Domestic regulators call such a form of gambling unregulated, but this just means that they do not regulate it themselves. The better out-of-state sites are fully regulated and trustworthy. The internet is a magic tool that can have us travelling to the most far-flung parts of the world in an instant. This is the world that online gamblers in Florida live in.
Will Florida ever become anything like Las Vegas?
If Florida ever manages to adopt the same permissive attitude toward gambling as Nevada has, Florida could probably surpass Nevada as the gambling capital of the U.S. Nevada has a relatively small population and gets almost all of its tourism from gambling. Florida is much more populous and gets a lot more tourist traffic than Nevada has even without much gambling tourism. There are already many good reasons to visit Florida, and if gambling at world class casinos were added, this could really grow big.
How close is Florida to opening up gambling a lot more?
Florida’s gambling scene is currently a wrestling match between the Seminole tribe, the racino owners, and the State of Florida. The State has been moving away from the monopoly on certain casino games that they have provided to the tribes, and recent events now suggest that they may be building up an appetite for something bigger than either the tribal casinos or the racinos. Florida is currently stagnant in terms of gambling space, and while expanding this market may be some time off, Florida has started to move a little in that direction.