When it comes to gambling in Florida, this southeastern state is certainly open for business as there is a smorgasbord of betting opportunities.
The Sunshine State is home to eight professional sports teams — like the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and NBA’s Miami Heat — with millions of followers. But, whether it’s the moneyline, point spread or a future bet, you will have to go online to a gaming site like Bovada to get in on this type of action.
Many Floridians also like to enjoy the day in the sun at Gulfstream Park, just north of Miami, betting the thoroughbreds or playing in the county-approved casino. Other popular betting spots include the eight Indian casinos throughout Florida, which is the destination of millions of visitors every year.
Florida Sports Betting Law
Almost 21 million people live in Florida. Tallahassee is the state capital, while Miami is its largest city with 5.5 million residents. Gambling, whether it’s horse racing or jai-alai, is regulated at the state level. Generally speaking, Florida gambling laws limit casinos to Indian reservations and allow betting on horse racing. The amount of wagers and where casinos can be located geographically also incorporates state law.
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The minimum gambling age is 18 for pari-mutuel betting or poker and 21 for gaming machines.
All legalized gambling within Florida is limited to the following areas:
- Legalized casino gambling
- Tribal casino gambling
- Casino boats
- Horse racing
- Dog racing
- Social gambling, but many restrictions apply
- Charitable gambling
There are three types of casinos in Florida — casino boats, Indian casinos, and gaming machines at pari-mutuels in two south Florida counties.
The casino boats offer gamblers the opportunity to board ships that cruise offshore where casino gambling is legal. From the west coast, the boats travel nine miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. From the east coast, they travel three miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.
There are eight Florida Indian casinos — seven with the Seminole tribe and one with the Miccosukee tribe’s reservation.
There are eight pari-mutuel casinos in Florida. South Florida’s pari-mutuel facilities (as well as most pari-mutuels throughout the state) also offer poker. Admission to all casinos is free and they are allowed to be open a maximum of 18 hours per day during the week and 24 hours on the weekends and some holidays.
Although Florida is home to nearly all breeds of horses, thoroughbreds are the most popular breed and, as a result, Florida boasts three of the top thoroughbred horse racetracks in the country — Calder Race Course, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs.
The Florida Lottery began operation in January 1988, with a significant portion of all revenue going towards education in the state. The minimum age to play any of the state’s numerous games is 18.
Florida Sports Betting Laws
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning sports gambling in most states in May 2018, opening the door for lawmakers in Florida and other states to legalize sports betting.
Now, lots of state are moving quickly to legalize, regulate and tax sports gambling. But the state of Florida isn’t there just yet as lawmakers try to rewrite regulations.
Florida has an agreement with the Seminole tribe that gives them a monopoly on card games like blackjack, but the future of the agreement is in limbo, and sports betting could add a new element to negotiations.
Although state lawmakers are mostly opposed to expanding online gambling, the state doesn’t take a hard line against the forms of online gaming that are permitted under federal law, so it is not illegal to participate in gambling activities offered on the Internet.
Florida’s Major Sports Teams
National Football League
Florida is home to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins, but they are hardly neighbors. The two AFC teams are separated by almost 350 miles.
The Jaguars joined the NFL in 1995 and have won three division titles. They have qualified for the playoffs seven times, most recently in 2017 after a 10-season drought. The Dolphins, who were established in 1965, were among the best teams in the league in the 1970s and ’80s. They have won two Super Bowls (1972, 1973) and five conference championships.
National Basketball Association
The Miami Heat and Orlando Magic are two of the five teams in the Southeast Division.
Formed in 1988 as an expansion team, the Heat have won three NBA Finals (2006, 2012, 2013), five conference titles and 13 division titles. The Magic have played in the NBA playoffs for almost half of its existence (14 playoff appearances in 29 years), and twice went to the championship, losing in 1995 and 2009.
Major League Baseball
The Miami Marlins, who began play as an expansion team in the 1993 season, are one of only two MLB franchises to have never won a division title (Colorado Rockies). But that hasn’t stopped the Marlins from winning two World Series championships as a wild card team (1997, 2003).
The Tampa Bay Rays, who began play in 1998, finally posted their first winning season 10 years later. They have since won two division titles and one league championship (2008).
National Hockey League
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s first regular season game took place on Oct. 7, 1992, playing in Tampa’s tiny 11,000-seat Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Since those humble beginnings, the Lighting have won one Stanley Cup (2003-04), two conference championships and three division titles.
The Florida Panthers, who began play in the 1993-94 season, have made one appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals (1996) — the only season in which the Panthers have ever won a playoff series.