With just 22 days to go, DraftKings and FanDuel have collected less than one third of the signatures necessary to put their sports-betting initiative on the November 8 general election ballot in Florida.
The number of valid signatures required is 891,589, and as of Friday, DraftKings and FanDuel had collected 285,133, according to the Florida Division of Elections’ website.
Despite the low number, a spokeswoman for DraftKings and FanDuel on Friday predicted the initiative will make the ballot.
“We are confident we will have enough signatures to meet the February 1, 2022, deadline,” said Christina Johnson, who represents Florida Education Champions, a political action committee formed by DraftKings and FanDuel to promote the sports-betting initiative.
Large quantities of signatures already are in the offices of Florida Education Champions and those signatures are being validated as the collection process continues, Johnson said.
The initiative supported by DraftKings and FanDuel would allow for retail sports betting at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities, as well as state-wide mobile wagering. Only online sportsbook operators active in at least ten other U.S. states could initially qualify to operate in Florida.
Johnson did not respond to a question about allegations that the Seminole Tribe of Florida are financing efforts to block the collection of signatures for the sports-betting initiative.
For their part, the Seminoles claim they are trying to explain to Florida voters the distinction between the DraftKings and FanDuel sports-betting proposal and the Seminole Compact.
“Research showed that voters believed the Seminole Tribe was somehow involved with the [DraftKings and FanDuel] sports-betting ballot initiative, and Floridians were not fully aware of the [Seminole] Compact,” said Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the Seminole Tribe.
“The tribe launched a full-fledged campaign with state-wide television and digital advertising to increase awareness and understanding of the compact, plus local community outreach to collect signatures of support,” Bitner said.
The Seminoles are appealing federal court rulings in November and December in Washington, D.C. which declared their gambling compact with Florida violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 by allowing the tribe to accept online bets placed outside reservation land.
So far, DraftKings and FanDuel have raised more than $37m in the campaign for their initiative and spent almost $27m.
Bob Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who teaches gaming law, said he would be surprised if DraftKings and FanDuel obtain enough signatures before the February 1 deadline.
“Even if DraftKings and FanDuel can collect another 606,456 signatures, the question is: Can they collect such signatures throughout the state (in various congressional districts as Florida election law requires)?”Jarvis said.
“The odds certainly are not in their favor,” he added.
Meanwhile, Florida attorney general Ashley Moody on Friday asked the Florida Supreme Court to review a Las Vegas Sands-backed initiative which would allow casinos to enter the North Florida market by enabling established pari-mutuel cardroom locations to offer full casino gaming provided they invest at least $250m upgrading their facilities.
The Florida Voters In Charge political action committee, which represents Las Vegas Sands, has collected 425,523 signatures as of Friday.
Although that total is less than half of the 891,589 signatures required to put the referendum on the ballot in November, it exceeds the amount needed (222,898) to trigger a judicial review.
Las Vegas Sands, which has yearned for decades to open a casino in Florida, has raised more than $28m for its campaign and spent more than $27m.
If successful, Las Vegas Sands plans to open a casino in Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States as of 2020.
Finally, a third gambling referendum would authorize up to three new casino-resorts at least 100 miles from established tribal casinos.
Florida Voters in Charge, the political action committee promoting the Las Vegas Sands’ casino initiative, also is promoting the casino proposal but does not appear to be actively collecting signatures for it.
As for the reports about the Seminoles allegedly paying to block votes for the DraftKings and FanDuel sports-betting initiative, Jarvis, the Nova Southeastern University law professor, did not seem shocked.
“It would be a smart thing to do, and the Seminoles are very smart,” he said.
“And frankly, I see nothing wrong with what the Seminoles are alleged to have done. To paraphrase the old adage, ‘All’s fair in love and ballot fights.’”