Gambling Revenue to Fund Florida Environment Pushed in Pair of Proposals

Posted on: January 16, 2024, 12:45h. 

Last updated on: January 16, 2024, 12:52h.

Florida lawmakers are doubling down on proposals to use sports betting money to further expand environmental projects. The 2024 legislative session began with a pair of bills to benefit parks and waterways in the Sunshine State.

Florida sign
A “Welcome to Florida” sign greets travelers to the state.  (Image: Katherine Welles/Adobe Stock Images)

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota) introduced House Bill 1417, which is focused on spending most of the revenue from gambling. Senate Bill 1638, introduced by Sen. Travis Hutson (R – 7th District), specified funding for environmental management and protections, including research.

Florida’s Senate President Kathleen Passidimo (R-Naples) told Senators in her opening remarks she supports gambling revenue to fund land acquisition and conservation.

Using these new revenues to acquire and manage conservations lands and invest in our clean water infrastructure will be a phenomenal return on investment for our state,” Passidimo said. “I hope the legislation will earn your support.”

House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) also backs the idea of using gambling money for conservation-related projects.

How Bills are Funded in Florida

SB 1638 would use an “indeterminate” amount of revenue available from a gambling deal that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) reached with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The gaming compact deal was struck in 2021.

Legal challenges claimed Florida sports betting violated a constitutional amendment requiring voter approval of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The gaming compact was vacated pending appeals. The Seminole Tribe successfully appealed and the DC District Court of Appeals overturned a decision that blocked regulated sports betting.

On Nov. 1, 2023, the Seminole Tribe said it would launch retail sports betting at its casinos on Dec. 7, 2023.

As reported by, the Hard Rock Bet app became available to eligible users in Florida on Dec. 5, 2023.

Under the compact, the tribe pledged to pay $2.5 billion to the state over the first five years and perhaps billions more during the three-decade deal.

There’s Just One Sports Betting App in Florida

The only legal sports betting app in the Sunshine State is Hard Rock Bet, which is available on iOS and Android. All other sports betting platforms licensed in other US states aren’t allowed.

There is early bipartisan support for the proposals to use some sports betting revenue for land acquisition.

House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) said members of her party would support using the money for protecting waterways and the environment.

The amount of money from sports wagering that would fund the environmental goals still needs to be negotiated.

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