Florida Casino Backers File Lawsuit After Failing to Get Enough Verified Signatures

  • The LVS-backed proposal was just 77,000 signatures short of the November ballot
  • The group has filed a lawsuit arguing that it did actually acquire enough signatures
  • FVC spent $45m on the petition gathering campaign through to December 31, 2021
  • The group has come into conflict with the Seminole Tribe, leading to two lawsuits
Person signing petition
An LVS-backed group has filed a lawsuit in Florida after failing to get enough verified signatures for its casino expansion proposal before the deadline. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Just couldn’t cut it

Since the end of 2021, a Las Vegas Sands-backed group has been hard at work in the state of Florida. The emotively named Florida Voters in Charge (FVC) wants to sway public opinion in favor of a gambling expansion proposal. However, it is now suing for more time after failing to gather enough verified signatures for the November ballot.

just 77,000 signatures short of the bare minimum required by Florida law

The state law deadline for the signatures passed at 5pm on Tuesday this week, with FVC managing to acquire 814,266. Agonizingly, that’s just 77,000 signatures short of the bare minimum required by Florida law for a constitutional amendment.

Not willing to give up just yet, the group filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court on Monday this week. It argues that the process is unfair and that FVC did, in fact, turn in enough signatures to reach the ballot. The group wants the judge to waive the provision that petition signature verification end at the Tuesday deadline.

All or nothing

It really is all or nothing for the Sands-funded group. If it fails to overturn the decision, then all the money spent on its campaign for three new Vegas-style casinos in the state will amount to nothing. According to the campaign’s finance reports, Florida Voters in Charge spent $45m on its petition gathering venture through to December 31.

In its defense, the group argues that it has actually turned in far more signatures than necessary. The lawsuit filed Monday asks the state to resume processing its petitions until all of the signatures in its in-basket are verified or rejected.

Sadly for the group, failing to gather the 77,000 remaining signatures is not the only issue with its submission. State law requires a minimum number of signatures in each of Florida’s 27 districts. FVC fell short in around 17 of these, including needing 20,000 more in each of the two Panhandle districts.

FVC had particular trouble gaining momentum for its campaign in these Panhandle districts. This northwestern part of Florida lies in between the typically conservative states of Alabama and Georgia.

A cause of controversy

It’s not just the Panhandle districts that struggled to accept FVC’s gambling expansion proposal. The Seminole Tribe of Florida also came into conflict with the group over its campaign. In December last year, two Seminole-backed groups had to attend court after FVC accused them of utilizing harassment and intimidation tactics.

a countersuit based on claims of illegal conduct and fraud

Only last month, the Seminole-funded Standing Up for Florida committee sued FVC in return. It denied all the allegations made in the previous lawsuit and filed a countersuit based on claims of illegal conduct and fraud. The committee alleged FVC had “illegally obtained” signatures and that officials should deem them null and void.

In another recent twist in the tale, FVC has now dropped its lawsuit against the Seminole after two months of fierce legal battling. The lawyers for the political committee filed a notice of dismissal on Monday this week. It did not include any reasons for the decision.

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