Rival Groups Pumped $27m Into Desperate Florida Sports Betting Voter Initiatives in Q3

  • Q3 saw the biggest injection of donations to FEC from the sportsbooks since January
  • Seminole Tribe-backed Standing Up for Florida received a $10m donation in November
  • FEC has only received 177,021 signatures and needs 800,000+ by January
  • Sands-backed Florida Voters in Charge has spent $27.4m to get 246,000 signatures
  • Seminoles are at the center of serious allegations concerning illegal voter solicitation practices
Gamblers at Gulfstream casino in Florida
Three different groups are going all-out for voters’ signatures to expand/prevent wider legalization of legal sports betting in Florida, donating $27m in Q3. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

FanDuel, DraftKings donated over $17.1m

FanDuel, DraftKings, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have been the leading donors behind rival initiatives pumping $27m during Q3 into bids to expand/prevent wider legalization of sports betting in Florida.

According to latest campaign documents, the FanDuel-DraftKings-backed Florida Education Champions (FEC), legislation initiative received over $17.1m in donations during the third quarter.

Casino table games manager John Carbone shared news of FanDuel’s $4.38m November donation:

FanDuel gave the FEC $106,054 in October, with DraftKings adding $12.7m in the same month. The quarter represents the biggest injection of donations since the sportsbooks made an initial pledge of $10m each to the FEC in January.

The rival Seminole Tribe-backed Standing Up for Florida initiative, which wants to keep the lion’s share of Florida sports betting for the tribe, received a further $10m donation in November.

Battle for signatures

The donations are bankrolling competing marketing drives for voter signatures, with FEC having already ponied up $26m pushing its petitions. According to Florida Politics, FEC spent $10.5m on its marketing in November alone. Despite the heavy cash-backed advertising campaigns, the FEC has only received 177,021 signatures, which is way shy of the 800,000+ target it needs to hit come January.

a bleak picture for FEC

John Holden, an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University specializing in sports law, painted a bleak picture for FEC and getting sports betting onto the ballot in 2022 via Twitter:

Florida Voters in Charge is a Las Vegas Sands-backed committee. It is seeking voter permission to construct a North Florida casino and has spent $27.4m for its 246,000 signatures. Like FEC, it also splashed the cash in November, shelling out $11.4m.

The FanDuel-DraftKings initiative allows for sports wagering at professional sports stadiums and parimutuel venues. It also grants online sports betting statewide on platforms run by entities authorized to offer such wagering, and by tribes in possession of a Florida gaming compact. Under this FEC initiative, taxable revenue will supplement public education. The Seminoles are against both the Sands and FEC initiatives. The tribe’s $10m donation to its Standing Up for Florida drive came, however, before the controversial ruling by a federal court to strike down the 2022 Florida Gaming Compact in late November. The ruling forced the tribe to pull the plug on its Hard Rock digital sportsbook.

A silver lining for FEC, however, is that it’s within reach of the 222,898 signatures needed for Florida to conduct a judicial and financial impact review, which could boost its chances of support.

Serious allegations

The Seminoles’ campaign seeks to encourage Florida residents to boycott out-of-state betting operator-backed initiatives, à la FEC and others. But as gaming law attorney Daniel Wallach posited: “Florida lawmakers were given misleading information by interested parties about the allowability of online sports betting under IGRA. This only ended up costing the state billions. A cautionary tale.”

On Twitter, Wallach shared an April video of a “gaming law bootcamp” for Florida lawmakers, stating the lecturer “was none other than the outside counsel for the Seminole Tribe.”

The tribe is at the center of serious allegations concerning illegal voter solicitation practices. According to EGR Intel, one of many allegations is that the Seminoles are conducting an informal side petition effort, which is reportedly orchestrated by a convicted voting fraudster.

A Sands-backed lawsuit against the tribe on the alleged activities is currently working its way through the US courts.