If you’re attending the Jacksonville Jaguars game Sunday, you might notice an ad pop up on your phone with a link to receive a petition to legalize online sports betting in the mail.
Or you might see someone walking around outside TIAA Bank Field asking you to sign a petition to increase educational funding with revenue from sports betting.
The Jaguars are hosting the Arizona Cardinals. The initiative campaign also will be at the No. 11-ranked University of Florida game against Tennessee this weekend, as well as Florida State hosting Louisville and the University of Miami game.
“Florida Education Champions have petition gatherers across the state who are collecting signatures from sports fans right from where they’re enjoying the game: at collegiate and professional stadiums,” said campaign spokesperson Christina Johnson. “We’re bringing petitions to Florida voters who want more competition in the sports betting market and support the expected hundreds of millions of dollars to supplement public education.”
Live sporting events big part of initiative campaign
The start of the NFL and college football seasons have been a big part of the campaign’s strategy to collect the 891,589 valid signatures required to make the November 2022 ballot.
Signature gatherers also were out at the Miami Dolphins game against the Bills last week. And you might have seen them if you attended the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ opening-week game against the Falcons.
In the past month, they’ve also been at University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University football games. And at the end of August they were at the NASCAR race at the Daytona International Speedway.
Signature gathers roam the exterior of the stadium and tailgate areas on gamedays. They seek out fans who want the opportunity to bet on the two biggest sports betting apps.
But even if attendees don’t run into the men and women with lanyards and clipboards, they’re likely to notice an ad about sports betting and education funding. All they have to do is check their phones while tailgating, walking into the stadium or sitting in the stands.
The campaign specifically targets these areas for digital ads. Clicking on them will pop up a form to request a petition in the mail.
The state legalized online sports betting this year through the Seminole Tribe, but DraftKings and FanDuel aren’t guaranteed participation in the Seminole monopoly on sports betting. And the mobile sports betting provisions of the Seminole compact are facing challenges in state and federal courts.
Signature collection off to slow start
It’s been about three months since the Florida Education Champions filed the initiative in June.
The Florida Department of State keeps track of the number of signatures validated by Florida counties. So far, that total is about 20,000.
The nearly 900,000 valid signatures basically need to be in by the end of the year. The deadline is Jan. 2, 2022 to give the counties time to approve them by the Feb. 1 deadline to make the election.
Doing the math, it seems like the campaign isn’t working out. However, Johnson explains that it took until mid-August to begin gathering. Then the campaign had to ramp up.
Johnson also said there are another 100,000 signatures in the process of going to and being verified by counties.
Campaign has high hopes for October
Even with the petitions in the pipeline, the initiative has a long way to go. It’s going to need about 250,000 a month over the rest of the year to qualify.
Johnson isn’t worried. After the ramp up at sporting events in September, the effort is really just hitting its stride.
And on the horizon is a busy period in sports that will provide many opportunities to gather signatures at sporting events in Florida.
“I think October will be our biggest month of the year with the NBA and NHL seasons starting, Major League Baseball in the playoffs, college football and the NFL,” Johnson said. “My husband always calls October the most magical sports month of the year.”