Online sports betting on the rise in Florida, but there are risks

As the March Madness craze is underway, so is online sports betting in Florida.

It's the first time Floridians can legally bet on the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

"I have a lot of friends that bet. A lot of guys in the office," said one sports fan. "It’s a way to make money, have fun, and add excitement to any sport."

Late last year, the Seminole Tribe launched its mobile betting app 'Hard Rock Bet'. The app is the mobile part of the Seminole Tribe's 30-year gaming compact with the State of Florida.

Florida's share of 2024 revenues is already more than $120 million. State economic forecasters predict the revenue sharing from tribal gaming could total $4.4 billion through the end of this decade.

"For people who have been betting for years, not in a legal way, now that it’s legal, I think people will get more into sports as long as you don’t let it get out of control," added another sports fan.

Daniel Wallach with Wallach Legal, a firm that focuses on gaming and sports betting says it is the biggest time of year to place your online sports bets. "It really is the height of the betting season, along with the Super Bowl and maybe the beginning of the NFL season. So this is a real peak period," said Wallach.

Wallach pointed out that while more people can place online sports bets across the country, Florida operates differently than many other states. Because of the deal made with the Seminole Tribe, there is only one option to bet. "Many people are happy that they have the ability to bet on sports, and they don't really care," said Wallach. "From a consumer protection standpoint, you'd want to have multiple options. You get more competitive pricing, more competitive odds, more promotions."

But, as more people place their bets, the number of potential gambling addicts is on the rise. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling says calls to the state's gambling help hotline more than doubled after online sports betting was made legal.

Just this month, seven of the U.S.'s largest online betting operators have joined together to create the Responsible Online Gaming Association, including Hard Rock Interactive.

"I think Hard Rock and the Seminole Tribe want to screen out problem gamblers. They don't want to make money on the backs of problem gamblers," said Wallach. "Nobody does. It's bad for the industry.