Bestbet Expands in Florida Despite Uncertain Gaming Future in the State

Bestbet was born in St. Johns County, FL, in the 1980s, so it’s only fitting that the gaming operator would want to keep its local footprint. It has been greenlighted by the county to open a new property in the town of St. Augustine, using the former site of the St. Augustine Flea Market as its target. The expansion comes as Florida grapples with its future in the gambling industry, but operators are optimistic that good things are coming to the Sunshine State.

Bestbet Back in St. Johns County

Bestbet’s first property was in St. Johns County and enjoyed a good run before Florida began making changes to its approach to greyhound racing and other forms of gaming. Eventually, the company felt it would be better to exit the area for a while, but is now ready to stage a comeback. County officials have reportedly issued a building permit that will allow Bestbet to build a new facility that will offer a poker room and simulcast wagers. No date for completion of the construction has been given; however, Bestbet President Jamie Shelton believes construction will take about a year.

The operator has two other properties in the northeast part of the state, one in Jacksonville and the other in Orange Park. Like the St. Augustine addition, they offer poker and simulcast wagering on horse and greyhound races, but these two are larger properties. Jacksonville’s venue, which is home to the World Poker Tour Bestbet Scramble, measures 74,863 square feet, while Orange Park’s location is just over 100,000 square feet. The new property in St. Augustine will reportedly be just 40,673 square feet. Another distinction the other two properties share is that they offer jai alai, something the new property won’t have.

Gaming Operators Know Something We Don’t

Florida is in the middle of a game of tug-of-war. On one side are those that support gambling expansion and, on the other, a growing number of individuals who think things are getting out of control. State residents approved a measure a couple of years ago that gives them the final say on whether or not new casinos can be authorized, but this didn’t stop lawmakers from signing a new controversial gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Efforts to void that compact are mounting, including from some high-profile politicians, but gaming operators are confident that all the controversy will soon be over.

Las Vegas Sands (LVS) is so confident that it has already injected $17 million into a campaign to see expanded gambling come to Florida. With that investment, a petition has cleared the way for a new ballot entry to appear before voters next year, once again asking residents to weigh in on casino expansion. They will be able to vote on whether three new casinos should be allowed in the state (obviously, one would be operated by LVS, most likely in Jacksonville), as well as whether licensed card rooms, such as those operated by Bestbet, should be greenlighted for casino gaming. The goal is to break the virtual monopoly the Seminole have on gaming in the state; however, it’s unlikely the debate will end without substantial involvement from federal authorities.