Florida is a state known for its involvement with and passion for sports. A ranking of the states with the most pro sports activity pegged Florida at number two and called it a “sneaky surprise” thanks to 10 pro franchises, as well as the potential for an 11th if David Beckham ever gets his planned MLS expansion team. And that’s not even taking into account multiple professional tennis tournaments (such as the Delray Beach Open and Miami Open), nor does it include professional golf events.
For this reason, many throughout Florida may be keeping a close eye on the growing movement toward legal sports wagering. Online sportsbooks are under discussion for legal status in states across the nation and are already legal in Nevada, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey. And while Florida is not among the leaders in progressing this legislation, the state will likely get on board at some point. There’s too much opportunity to ignore, and the trend nationwide is clear.
Southwest Florida is almost uniquely isolated from all of this, however. While community sports (tennis clubs, golf courses and the like) are popular and available throughout the area, this is one part of Florida that is largely uninvolved with the professional and even college sports scene. So would legal sports wagering in Florida have much of an effect on the area?
That frankly depends on how much interest people have in sports betting. However, the lack of professional sports in the area shouldn’t necessarily have a major impact, because what’s being discusses here is online sports betting – not betting shops outside of arenas and the like, as you’ll sometimes see at, say, UK football stadiums. If the relevant legislation is passed throughout the state, people in Southwest Florida will be able to log onto a regulated betting platform and weigh in on sports around the state, and the country and perhaps the world for that matter.
What will be interesting to see in terms of local impact is whether or not there would be a greater focus on what limited local sports there are. For instance, would betting extend into Minor League baseball circles? If so, would the Fort Myers Miracle – the most prominent local sports team in Fort Myers – inspire significant betting activity? Would the Minnesota Twins, who are the Major League affiliate of the Miracle, receive a particularly high amount of attention from Southwest Florida natives? Or might the Red Sox, who just won another World Series and who play their spring training games at Jet Blue Park, command attention as well?
We can’t answer these questions exactly, but they’re interesting to consider when wondering if betting will become a popular form of entertainment in the area. Right now, no significant changes appear to be imminent. However, it’s possible that eventual (and likely inevitable) sports wagering legalization around Florida results in this portion of the state being a little more closely connected to the sports culture of the state as a whole.