Legal sports betting in Florida is back. And the single operator that is authorized to accept bets had a bold prediction for the Sunshine State.
Florida could top New York sports betting as the No. 1 market in the country.
“I think it’s certainly possible,” Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen, whose company operates the lone legal online sportsbook in Florida, told CNBC last month.
“What’s unique about Florida is, [it’s] a state of 21-22 million people, but much more importantly the tax rate is much more competitive here. The tax rate in New York is over 50%. And frankly companies like ours didn’t even pursue [a New York license] because they had a [51%] tax rate, and honestly you cannot make money.”
But how feasible is it, really, for Florida to top New York? It would appear as one of the loftiest goals Hard Rock could set for itself.
Could Florida challenge NY sports betting for US supremacy?
In October, the US Supreme Court essentially green-lit the Seminole Tribe to continue with its online sports betting operations in Florida. It took little time for Hard Rock, which had first launched in 2021 before going offline 34 days later, to get back into business and begin accepting bets.
Since his company’s online sportsbook returned, Allen has expressed optimism for Florida. Gaming analyst Jordan Bender projected Florida to generate up to $1.5 billion in revenue at full maturity.
That, of course, occurs with Hard Rock – which is looking to develop a downstate casino in Queens – operating in a monopoly. Conversely, with a competitive market, Florida sports betting could result in $2 billion, same as New York.
“Certainly those are numbers we have seen,” Allen told CNBC.
“I think when you have the conversation, you have to look at it with solely sports betting, which is now the scope that we legally have available to offer to the general public. But certainly that number gets significantly higher if iGaming is eventually approved in the future.”
Consider what New York has already accomplished
Indeed, Florida ranks among the most-populated states in the country. According to July 2023 estimates from the United States Census Bureau, the Sunshine State boasts 22.6 million residents – third-most nationwide behind California and Texas. New York, meanwhile, ranks fourth with 19.6 million.
But New York also features a relatively competitive sports betting market. And it not only launched online sports betting with historic success, but it also has grown since its January 2022 debut.
In 2022, NY sportsbooks accepted $16.2 billion in bets, leading to $1.36 billion in gross gaming revenue. With still December numbers to report, the state has already broken those records in 2023: $18.6 billion in handle, $1.68 billion in NY sports betting revenue.
New York sportsbooks combined to make the Empire State the first jurisdiction to record a month of over $2 billion in October – and they did it again in November.
Yes, New York features the highest tax rate (51%) among states with legal online sports betting. It has certainly contributed to some sportsbooks still looking to break even.
Obviously, everyone wants to have a goal to achieve. Certainly Hard Rock – as the only sportsbook operator in Florida – wants to see the industry flourish. Give it time, though. The Florida market remains in its infancy. But New York is maturing quickly. It may be difficult for Florida to catch up. Especially without a competitive market.