Seminole Tribe Pouring Money To Sink Sports Betting Ballot Initiatives

Written By JR Duren on December 13, 2021
Pouring Millions of Dollars Into Elsewhere

Florida isn’t big enough for any other sports betting and casino operators.

That’s the opinion of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. According to campaign finance activity reports from the Florida Division of Elections, the tribe has poured more than $10 million into a group called “Standing Up for Florida.”

According to campaign finance activity reports from the Florida Division of Elections. The group recently ran an ad attacking out-of-state interests in the Florida gaming industry.

Commercial conveys the threat of out-of-state companies

In particular, the ad titled “Don’t Sign Gambling Petitions” plays up the dubious motives of out-of-staters. Furthermore, it claims these out-of-staters will turn Florida into Las Vegas.

For example, in one scene, the commercial highlights that gaming companies outside Florida have spent $62 million on initiatives intended to go on the 2022 Florida ballot.

The $62 million figure references a series of initiatives filed with the Florida Division of Elections (DOE).

Florida Education Champions: Sports betting expansion

Perhaps the most high-profile initiative listed by the DOE is sponsored by Florida Education Champions (FEC). DraftKings and FanDuel back FEC. According to DOE campaign finance records, the two groups have contributed more than $32 million to the initiative.

However, If the initiative becomes an amendment and passes, it would remove Seminole exclusivity over sports betting 20 months after its effect.

Florida Voters in Charge: Two casino expansion initiatives

Initiative sponsor Florida Voters in Charge (FVC) has a pair of initiatives filed with the DOE. One would allow the state’s card rooms to offer casino gaming. The other industry would allow three new casinos to open.

FVC’s largest donor has been Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which has contributed more than $27 million to the two initiatives, according to DOE campaign finance records.

Seminole tribe has a lot to lose if competition succeeds

The Seminole tribe’s compact with the state gives it complete exclusivity over sports betting. Hard Rock International has a stake in the matter, too. Its digital gaming arm has an exclusive partnership with the tribe. Therefore allows it to be the only operator offering a mobile sports betting app.

Additional casinos would also pose a threat. Assuming the state’s existing card rooms could scrape up enough capital to convert properties into casinos.

Compounding the danger of competition is the fact that some Florida residents are confused about the initiatives. Internal polling showed that people believed the Seminole tribe were a part of the initiatives and weren’t aware of the tribe’s compact with the state, tribe spokesperson Gary Bitner told Naples Daily News earlier this year.

While this may be true, the tribe’s efforts to interfere with the new initiatives strike a hypocritical chord with FEC representative Christina Johnson.

In an interview with a Jacksonville news station, Johnson said it’s odd that the tribe supported the state’s amendment giving citizens the power to vote on gaming expansion but is now trying to block that very same power.

“The Seminole bosses are spending millions of dollars asking voters not to sign a petition on the very same issue: to have a voice in the expansion of gaming,” Johnson said.

Photo by Overearth / Shutterstock.com
JR Duren Avatar
Written by
JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey gambling beats for Catena Media. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun. Duren is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

View all posts by JR Duren