After spending over $70 million and litigating in court for months, supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Las Vegas-style casinos in North Florida have canceled their bid to get the measure on the ballot in 2022.
The casino initiative pitted Las Vegas Sands Corp. against the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It included allegations of death threats against workers gathering signatures for the ballot proposal and accusations that supporters of the measure violated state law by paying workers for signatures. Moreover, it’s a feud over the tribe’s efforts to “buy off” signature gatherers.
The Legality of Sports Betting in Florida
Although Florida has several excellent tribal casinos, there is currently no legal sports betting in the state.
Florida is unquestionably a gambling-friendly state. Residents have long been allowed to wager on horse racing and the lottery. With the introduction of tribal gambling in the late 1980s, they have also been able to enjoy slot machines and table games at casinos.
However, sports fans can still place wagers using some of the best Florida betting sites as discussed in more detail here. Discussions about increasing current gambling legislation in Florida are ongoing and we hope to have a legal sports betting market soon.
According to the state Division of Elections website, Las Vegas Sands gave at least $73 million to Florida Voters in Charge, a political entity that supported the casino proposal, while Seminoles Tribe spent at least $40 million to keep it off the November ballot.
The creation of the project was to allow current North Florida pari-mutuel cardrooms to offer Las Vegas-style games. The Seminoles are the only casino operators in Florida state.
Moved Deadline Extension Ends in a Flop
After failing to submit over 900,000 valid petition signatures by the Feb. 1 deadline, the Sands-backed group filed a lawsuit, requesting that Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper extend the deadline.
Cooper dismissed the plea, prompting the committee to launch an appeal with the 1st District Court of Appeal. In March 2022, Florida Voters in Charge discontinued the appeal and submitted a notice of voluntary dismissal of the matter before Cooper.
No Confirmation to Revive the Effort for 2024
The committee spokesperson, Sarah Bascom, said in a prepared statement that the committee believes it submitted more than the required number of voter signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot.
However, the various obstacles the committee would have to overcome to vindicate the voters and qualify for the ballot — the most recent of which is the passage of a law calling into question the availability of Supreme Court review of the ballot language — make that goal untenable.
Bascom did not specify whether the group intends to restart the attempt in 2024. While putting citizens’ initiatives on the Florida ballot has traditionally been a costly business, the casino proposal’s expenditures have escalated in part due to a 2019 law that made it unlawful to compensate signature gatherers depending on the number of petitions they collect.
After the proposed constitutional amendment began to circulate, Florida Voters in Charge rushed against the clock. Since petitions are only valid for one election cycle, backers of the initiative will have to start over if they want the idea on the ballot in 2024.
The Sands-backed campaign was one of two gambling-related measures that did not receive enough signatures to appear on this year’s ballot. The other plan called for sports betting to be legalized in professional sports stadiums, pari-mutuel facilities, and statewide via online platforms.
The Seminoles met both proposals with strong resistance. However, after the sports-betting campaign failed to gain traction late last year, the tribe focused on opposing the casino idea.
The tribe launched a statewide television campaign criticizing the gaming proposals. It began circulating its petition, which bore no legal weight, expressing support for a deal reached between the state and the Seminoles last year during a special legislative session.
That agreement, called a compact, would give the tribe control over sports betting in Florida. The agreement is on hold while a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. evaluates a federal judge’s judgment that U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, whose department regulates tribal gaming, had the jurisdiction to let the agreement take effect.
In December, Florida Voters in Charge filed a lawsuit accusing the tribe of attempting to “sabotage” the casino proposal, in part by interfering with employees attempting to gather signatures.
The Seminoles responded by accusing the initiative’s supporters of breaching the law by paying petition gatherers by the signature.
The Sands-backed committee abandoned the complaint a day before the Feb. 1 deadline to submit petition signatures to the state Division of Elections and filed a second legal challenge requesting additional time from Cooper.
The complaint also accused election supervisors of waiting on stacks of petitions and questioned signature-matching procedures employed by local election authorities.
It claimed that “tens of thousands of signatures” were rejected without providing voters the opportunity to “correct” signature discrepancies. The court’s lawsuit also claimed that some Florida ballot-initiative laws are unconstitutional.
Where Will You Place Sports Bets in Florida?
Considering that sports betting is outlawed in Florida, the only venues where you may legally place bets are Seminole-owned casinos.
Unfortunately, you can no longer place sports wagers online in Florida. However, the case for permitting online and mobile betting soon is compelling, and the situation is fluid. Keep an eye out for more Florida sports betting news!
For the time being, it appears that legal sports betting in Florida will take a few more years to become a reality. This is due to serious differences between the current state governor and the tribes. Even if an agreement is reached, a robust campaign will be required to persuade state voters to support it.
Nonetheless, if legal online sports betting in Florida becomes a reality, it will undoubtedly be one of the most popular legal sports betting jurisdictions in the US, given the state is represented in every major sports league. Meanwhile, gamblers will have to travel out of state to place legal sports bets.