Florida is home to a number of gambling options both in the real world and online. 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. Between the state’s legal online industry and brick-and-mortar casinos, you can definitely get your fill of gambling in the Sunshine State.
On this page, we’ll discuss the legality of online betting in Florida, where you can play right now and what the future may have in store. Florida was once considered a frontrunner for online poker legalization, but those days have come and gone. Now, Florida is what I would consider “average” in terms of availability of and friendliness towards real money internet gaming.
Legal Online Betting Options
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
Federal law permits a few forms of internet betting in the US as long as each state approves. The options for anyone in Florida consist of online greyhound betting, horse racing betting, fantasy sports and wagers on skill games. Each state has the right to prohibit any or all of those forms of internet wagering but Florida is thankfully friendly to those types of gaming.
Horse and Greyhound Racing
Online horse and greyhound racing is one of the few forms of internet gambling that is not prohibited by federal law. A number of major racing websites operate on US soil and openly advertise their services to players in most states. If you have an interest in betting on horses, here’s a quick list of sites that accept Floridians:
Like horse and greyhound racing, fantasy sports betting is exempt from federal anti-gambling laws. The fantasy sports gambling industry is in a boom phase right now and sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings are hosting massive contests every single week for all the major sports leagues of the nation.
If you haven’t yet heard the names FanDuel or DraftKings, you will soon. Both companies are already advertising on national TV and radio. They are hosting bigger and bigger contests every week with prize pools topping millions of dollars.
The difference between online fantasy betting and the fantasy leagues you may have played with your buddies is that online fantasy sports only last for a single week or weekend of games. You draft your team like normal but you’re not stuck with that team the entire year. It’s a lot of fun and the skill element does make it possible to become a long term winner.
Check out either of the following websites to learn more or try it out for yourself. You can start with practice games if you’d like or jump straight in to the real money games. Entry fees start out as low as $0.025 and go all the way up to more than $5,000. Yes, there is some serious money moving around on these sites.
Neither US law nor Florida law prohibits wagering against other people on games of skill over the internet. The types of games you can play at skill gaming websites include the likes of Scrabble, competitive solitaire, hearts and even Bejeweled.
WorldWinner.com is the largest site of this type. You can read the full review below:
What about the state lottery?
Florida DOES NOT sell lottery tickets online nor does it offer a subscription service. Of course, you can always try your luck at unauthorized lottery resellers that you can find online. I don’t recommend going that route though. It is still illegal to sell lottery tickets online in Florida so any site involved in the business is completely unregulated and most likely located overseas.
Nobody really knows how safe or legit overseas lottery resellers are. They claim to have a staff of agents located around the world whose job it is to go around and purchase lottery tickets on behalf of customers. The problem is there’s no way to verify how it really works.
If you want to play the lottery, it’s best to just go buy your tickets in person. You really don’t want to leave the fate of your $40 million jackpot in the hands of some foreign, quasi-legal website. States do have the authority to sell tickets online, but Florida does not yet do that.
Sports Betting in Florida
Sports betting is not legal in Florida itself, but residents do actually have a few legal options right now. Certain cruises that depart from Florida ports do allow sports betting once ships have travelled into international waters.
According to my research, the Victory Casino Cruises out of Cape Canaveral are the only ships that have an actual sportsbook. Other people have reported online that certain cruise ships offer limited numbers of sports bets but without a full-service sportsbook.
The one exception to Florida’s ban on sports betting is jai alai. If you visit one of the two remaining jai alai frontons in Florida, you can bet on the outcomes of games. Jai alai is certainly a fading sport, but two venues do still operate and accept wagers.
The two active jai alai frontons at Florida are:
As far as a widespread legalization of sports betting, Florida does not appear likely to expand its gambling options any time soon. There have been no efforts to introduce sports betting legislation and I have heard no rumors that anyone is even considering introducing such legislation.
A report from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming listed the 32 states most likely to legalize sports betting within five years of a Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal prohibition of sports betting. Florida was not included in that list, but was included in a supplemental list of 12 additional states likely to legalize sports betting within seven years of such a ruling.
Is it legal to bet online in Florida?
It depends on what your definition of “legal” is. A few forms of online betting are explicitly legal in Florida (horses, greyhounds, fantasy and skill). It is clearly illegal to operate a casino, card room or any other business that accepts wagers without the proper licensing.
What isn’t clear is whether or not it is a crime to place bets online at unlicensed betting sites. The key text in Florida’s gambling laws reads as follows:
“849.08 Gambling. 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…”
It seems pretty clear that this law makes it a misdemeanor crime to participate in obvious gambling games such as slot machines, blackjack, craps and so on. The part that says “by any device whatever” is easily interpreted to include the internet. However, the state has never once prosecuted a single person for the mere act of placing bets online. Hunting down people playing blackjack on their computers just isn’t a high priority.
Online poker is a different matter. The above law does not explicitly mention “poker” although it does mention “any game at cards.” But – there’s always a but – the phrase “other game of chance” seems to imply that only games of chance are forbidden. If poker isn’t a game of chance, this law doesn’t apply.
It doesn’t end there, folks. You and I may not consider poker a game of chance, but certain state and federal laws most definitely do define poker as exactly that. Florida law doesn’t define games of chance nor does it mention poker and there is no case law to fall back on.
Someone would have to push the matter before we ever get Florida’s opinion on the matter of poker being skill or luck. This probably won’t happen any time soon because nobody is hunting down poker players either.
Just cut to the chase already
Sorry, I tend to get long-winded on matters of gambling law. The long story short in Florida is that you’re probably never going to get in trouble for gambling or playing poker at offshore poker sites. Nobody in the history of Florida has ever been prosecuted, harassed or even received a strongly-worded letter for betting online – at least as far I’ve been able to tell.
The real concern you should have with betting online is the safety of your money. Unregulated offshore betting sites are hosted in countries with lax regulations and are not subject to US law. You have little-to-no recourse if your money goes missing or you discover the games are rigged.
Your best bet is to stick with the forms of internet betting that are already legal in Florida. If horse racing, fantasy sports or skill games don’t cut it for you, Florida is home to nearly three dozen real-world casinos that offer everything not found online.
What the Future Holds for Internet Gambling in Florida
An increasing number of states are in the process of legalizing online poker and casino games after a federal judge ruled in 2011 that the Wire Act of 1961 only applies to sports betting. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have already legalized either internet poker, casino games or both. State legislators in Florida have not yet moved to change anything. No legislation is pending at this time.
It doesn’t look like anything will be changing in Florida any time soon either. The state is mostly opposed to the expansion of internet gambling. In April of 2014, Florida governor Rick Scott expressed his opposition to expanding online betting at the federal level with a letter directed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
In the years since, there have been no real efforts to change Florida gambling laws. The current status quo appears quite likely to remain as it is for the foreseeable future.