As a state legislator in Michigan, Brandt Iden successfully guided bills to legalize online casinos and sports betting to the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to be signed into law.
The markets launched in Michigan in January 2021 and the state has been one of the top iGaming markets in the U.S. Along with online sports betting, Michigan is one of six states with online casinos and online poker. Along the way, Iden was able to bring together the interests of Michigan commercial gambling companies and Native American gaming enterprises.
Because of term limits, Iden had to leave the Michigan General Assembly. He’s now Sportradar’s head of Government Affairs in the U.S.
Iden recently discussed Florida sports betting and what’s next in that state, which briefly had legal sports betting.
Along with California and Texas, Florida is a market expected to be one of the top sports betting states in the country. A federal court struck down the Florida law allowing retail and online sports betting through the Seminole Tribe.
Iden’s answers have been edited lightly for brevity and flow.
Florida Dominated by the Seminoles
Florida is similar to California in that gaming in the state has been dominated by Tribal interests. The big difference is that while California is populated by many Tribes with casinos, Florida’s gambling landscape is dominated by one main Tribe, the Seminoles.
In 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reached an agreement with the Seminoles that would have given the Tribe firm control of online sports wagering in the state. It also had other expansions of gaming within their casinos, in return for billions of dollars to the state. However, challengers to the deal successfully sued in federal court to block the agreement. So, while California’s battle is headed to the ballot box, the Florida fight is in the courts.
Case Could End Up in U.S. Supreme Court
FloridaBet: How long before there is resolution in the Florida sports betting court case?
Iden: In the early part of the spring, the commercial operators tried to get a question on the ballot for statewide mobile. They didn't reach the (petition signature) threshold for that, so therefore, there will be nothing on the ballot. Now, the entire decision rests with the (federal) Circuit Court, which has not set a timeline for when they want to make a decision.
And I believe that this will likely end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. We could see this thing take another 12 months to try to get to the Supreme Court before something gets done. I think we're at least two or three years out and if folks got to go to the ballot box again, it could be even longer.
That compact (with DeSantis) also included ball and dice games for the tribes who currently don't have craps and roulette in the casino, so that was giving them options for that and that was providing an option for iCasino. So, there was a lot in that compact. And I think it's just going to take time to figure out which portions the courts want to address.
It sets up for a showdown potentially in the Supreme Court because this is the first time we've sort of seen this dynamic where someone is challenging whether or not the tribe and the governor have the ability to do an agreement on their own where the parimutuels (commercial gambling operators in Florida) continue to say, "We have this constitutional referendum that we passed (in 2018)" that you have to take any sort of expansion of gaming to the ballot. And they didn't do that, and that's what really the question becomes.
Could There Be a Compromise in Florida?
FloridaBet: In Florida is there any room for compromise between the commercial interests and the Tribal interest where, in a unified way, they could take this to the ballot box and honor the last vote by the voters and mutually ease online sports wagering into the state that way?
Iden: I do think that if this thing goes long enough, it may get to that point. There are a lot of emotions now as it happens in these cases. I don't think I see any sort of resolution in the short term. And maybe this thing goes a year or two and some of those emotions cool and people come back to the table and start having conversations, maybe. … (Unlike California with many Tribal interests), it's just the Seminole Tribe in Florida, and it's just them basically saying, "We control Florida, we've always controlled Florida.” … So, I think there's less of a chance for compromise in Florida than there is in California actually.