Plot Thickens in Florida Gambling Ballot Row as Seminole-Backed Group Sues LVS-Backed Group

  • FVC had sued the Seminole-backed SUF for allegedly trying to “sabotage” its signature-gathering
  • SUF has filed a countersuit claiming that FVC illegally obtained petition signatures
  • The countersuit aims to have all of the FVC’s gathered signatures to be declared null and void
  • FVC has gathered 450,000+ signatures but needs 891,589 signatures before February 1
Blind Justice statue
The Seminole-backed SUF has filed a countersuit against the LVS-backed FVC in Florida as part of an ongoing legal battle over casinos in the state. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Back and forth legal action

The row between a group aiming to legalize casinos in North Florida and the Seminole Tribe has taken another turn. Florida Voters In Charge (FVC), an initiative backed by casino company Las Vegas Sands, has been attempting to gather enough signatures in order to get its proposal put to a public vote in November.

denied all of the allegations from the FVC lawsuit and has now filed a countersuit

The Standing Up for Florida (SUF) committee, the main opposition group to this proposal, is funded by the Seminole Tribe. It has denied all of the allegations from a recent FVC lawsuit and has now filed a countersuit, making its own allegations of illegal conduct and fraud. The committee’s chairman called upon a Leon County circuit judge to deem the signatures that FVC has gathered to date as being “illegally obtained” and declared null and void.

FVC filed a lawsuit in December against SUF, alleging that the group had been attempting to sabotage the proposal by trying to persuade people and groups to not support FVC. The litigation included claims that SUF was intimidating and paying people to stop gathering signatures, as well as paying petition gathering firms to get exclusivity agreements.

Accusations flying

SUF believes that the state constitution is “under attack” from professional petition gatherers. This countersuit claims that FVC’s hired professional petition gatherers are violating Florida election law and “not only submitting illegally obtained petitions to various Supervisors of Elections, but now seek to use this court to restrict free speech and competitive labor hiring on the basis of illegal and unenforceable employment relationships.”

The countersuit also alleges that FVC has funneled over $27m to Game Day Strategies. This other company has allegedly been engaging in compensation-based gathering of signatures, which is illegal per state law. The countersuit aims to have the signatures declared null and void.

Las Vegas Sands has contributed almost $50m to FVC. It has been attempting to get access to the Florida casino market for many years.

The original FVC lawsuit sought a restraining order against the opposition groups to stop them from interfering in the campaign. Otherwise, it claimed that it would be impossible to get the necessary number of signatures in time.

The proposal in question

The FVC proposal is called “Limited Authorization of Casino Gaming” and seeks the allowance of as many as three new Vegas-style casinos in the state. Under the current proposal, these facilities would be at least 130 miles from the Seminole Tribe’s current casinos. The measure had been making steady process, getting the green light for a judicial review last week.

The Seminole Tribe is the only tribe in Florida able to offer Class III gaming and has seven tribal casinos currently up and running.

The proposal needs to get at least 891,589 legit signatures by February 1 in order to get on the ballot. As of Monday, it had garnered 458,608 valid signatures. However, the Seminole Tribe-backed SUF is claiming that FVC obtained these signatures illegally and therefore they cannot contribute to the overall target.