Man Arrested For Fraudulent Signatures In Casino Ballot Initiative

Written By Adam Hensley on March 27, 2024
A picture of a fake signature list for a story about a man being arrested for alleged use of dead people's signatures in the 2022 Florida casino expansion ballot initiative.

A failed attempt at Florida casino expansion in 2022 looks to have included fraud by three men.

On March 21, Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers arrested 29-year-old Haggi Amirally. Authorities accused him of using the names of dead people on petitions, including on the 2022 Limited Authorization of Casino Gaming initiative.

Authorities believe that Amirally and two other men are responsible for more than 20 petition forms containing signatures of people who were not alive at the time of the initiative.

Amirally was booked last week at the Palm County Jail on six counts of using personal identification information concerning a deceased individual.

Officials on the hunt for two other men

Right now, it doesn’t appear that casino expansion is a major priority for Florida. No current bill in play will lead to more casinos within state lines. Florida online casinos remain illegal, but the state does offer sweepstakes and social casinos that allow for slots play online.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is working on the investigation with the Florida Department of State Office of Election Crimes and Security and the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election Office.

Along with the arrest of Amirally, authorities issued arrest warrants for Alex and Henos Joseph. They last lived in Miami, according to police.

Alex Joseph is charged with five counts of criminal use of personal identification information. The FDLE claims the 29-year-old submitted more than 4,700 invalid signatures to Florida’s election offices.

Authorities claim 34-year-old Henos Joseph submitted more than 3,700 invalid signatures across the state. He’s charged with 13 counts of using personal identification information concerning a deceased individual.

According to the FDLE, more charges could be filed against the two men and Amirally.

A look back at Florida casino expansion in 2022

In 2022, the Limited Authorization of Casino Gaming amendment attempted to add more casinos in Florida.

The amendment would have “authorized businesses with active cardroom licenses as of Jan. 1, 2022, to offer casino gaming if they met location limitations and made minimum capital investment toward new development and construction.”

Specifically, a cardroom could not offer casino gambling if it was within “130 miles on a straight line” from another tribal gaming facility. The cardrooms did have the option to relocate their casino gambling ventures within the county if they did not meet the mile requirement at the time of the amendment.

“A license holder shall be authorized to conduct casino gaming only if the gaming floor of such license holder is more than 130 miles on a straight line from all tribal facilities. Prior to or after the commencement of casino gaming, a license holder may relocate its gaming floor to another location within the same county, provided that such relocation is completed prior to Dec. 1, 2025.”

Where things stand now with Florida casino expansion

A bill introduced late last year would have allowed for new casinos to be built without voter consent. However, Senate Bill 1054 was withdrawn.

The owner of Fontainebleau Miami Beach is pushing for a casino. Jeffrey Soffer donated more than $1.3 million to Republican leaders last year.

Whenever gambling expansion is floated through the legislature, lawmakers make the Seminole Tribe a priority. They have exclusivity on sports betting. That’s why there isn’t a FanDuel or DraftKings presence outside of daily fantasy sports games.

The only sports betting app in Florida is the Seminole’s Hard Rock Bet. But in the case of SB 1054, the tribe likely wouldn’t have fought the expansion of casinos in the area due to the latest compact it signed with the state, Nova Southeastern law professor Bob Jarvis told CBS News.

“(The Seminole Tribe) agreed that it would not raise any objections to any casinos, for lack of a better term, that would be built in South Florida so long as those new facilities were at least 15 miles from their gambling hub in Hollywood.”

But ultimately, lawmakers weren’t keen on the proposition. And neither were Miami Beach residents, President of No Casinos John Sowinski told the Miami Herald.

“Miami Beach is among the most anti-casino jurisdictions anywhere in Florida because they’ve so often been the target for a casino.”

Former Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber even wrote a letter to the federal government against casino expansion within his district. Steven Meiner, who took over for Gelber after his term ended in 2023, has the same view. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez expressed similar views, saying he believes gambling is a threat to the youth.

Photo by PlayFL
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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