In a bid to further expand environmental projects in Florida, state lawmakers are introducing bills to utilize sports betting revenue. The 2024 legislative session kicked off with proposals aimed at benefiting parks and waterways in the Sunshine State.
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota) brought forth House Bill 1417, which focuses on allocating the majority of gambling revenue towards environmental endeavors. Similarly, Senator Travis Hutson (R – 7th District) introduced Senate Bill 1638, outlining funding for environmental management, protection, and research.
Senate President Kathleen Passidimo (R-Naples) expressed her support for utilizing gambling revenue to finance land acquisition and conservation. She emphasized the potential for a significant return on investment for the state through these initiatives. House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) also voiced his backing for using gambling money for conservation-related projects.
SB 1638 aims to tap into an “indeterminate” amount of revenue derived from a gambling deal struck between Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 2021. While legal challenges initially contested the constitutionality of sports betting in Florida, the Seminole Tribe ultimately prevailed in their appeals, leading to the launch of retail sports betting at their casinos and the availability of the Hard Rock Bet app to eligible users in the state.
As per the compact, the Seminole Tribe pledged to contribute $2.5 billion to the state over the first five years and potentially billions more over the three-decade agreement. Currently, the only legal sports betting app in Florida is Hard Rock Bet, with other licensed platforms from different US states not permitted to operate in the Sunshine State.
Amidst bipartisan support for the proposal, House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) affirmed her party’s willingness to back the use of sports betting revenue for protecting waterways and the environment. However, the specific amount of money from sports wagering that will be allocated to these environmental goals is still subject to negotiation.