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New legislation seeks to legalize sports betting

Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 4:26 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - As many Americans prepare to finish out their fantasy football seasons this week, a state senator is hoping next year you may be able to legally play for money.

A bill to legalize sports betting has been filed for the 2021 legislative session.

According to LegalSportsReport.com, legal sports wagering in 19 states and the District of Columbia has generated $340 million in tax revenue over the past two and a half years.

“This activity is occurring in Florida today,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes.

Brandes wants Florida to get in on the action.

His proposal would put the Department of the Lottery in charge of regulating sports betting.

“This would allow a much more legitimate way to play,” said Brandes.

The bill would permit betting on both collegiate and professional sports.

Winnings would be taxed at 15%.

Athletes, coaches, referees and management would be banned from betting.

And as with the lottery, revenues generated would go towards education.

“To expand the great school offerings we have in the state,” said Brandes.

FSU sport management professor Dr. Jason Pappas said it could also help boost revenues for college teams, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“This would be another huge revenue stream that would offset some of those costs and I truly believe over the long term would actually increase probably bigger than any other revenue source that’s out there when it comes to sport,” said Dr. Pappas.

The odds are generally against any gambling legislation passing in Florida.

Next year things will be further complicated as lawmakers attempt to negotiate a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Brandes hopes his bill can stand on its own.

“Doing it through the lottery, we’re not giving anybody anymore leverage against us in terms of withholding funds if somebody technically breaks the compact,” said Brandes.

This is the second year in a row the bill has been filed.

Last year it wasn’t heard by any committees, but there is new leadership this year deciding which bills are taken up.

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