Las Vegas Sands Corp is suing a political action committee backed by Florida’s Seminole tribe for allegedly trying to sabotage its own political ambitions in the state.
The Las Vegas-based casino giant has teamed up with Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians on a ballot initiative called “Florida Voters in Charge (FVC).” The campaign is hoping to gather the almost 900,000 signatures needed to get its gaming expansion measure on the 2022 ballot.
But LVS says the Seminoles have targeted the campaign with “coordinated harassment and intimidation.” The lawsuit also claims parties acting on behalf of the tribe are paying off signature gatherers to either leave the state for at least six weeks, or switch to the other side.
The tribe is also accused of circulating a “sham petition,” similar to the LVS petition. It’s designed to confuse voters by tricking them into thinking they’ve already signed the LVS initiative, the lawsuit claims.
Absent appropriate intervention, Defendants’ concerted scheme to undermine Florida’s constitutional amendment process will likely be successful, and Plaintiffs will not be able to obtain the number of signatures required to place the Gaming Initiative on the 2022 ballot,” the lawsuit claims.
LVS Florida Plan
LVS has long had designs on casino resort in Florida. That’s where the Seminoles hold a monopoly on casino gaming via an agreement with the state. They own and operate seven Hard Rock-branded properties in Florida.
The FVC initiative is pushing to ask voters in a 2022 ballot whether they want to change the state constitution to allow pari-mutuel card rooms to become full-blown casinos. That’s if they are at least 130 miles away from the Seminole reservation.
If approved, it could open the door for LVS or the Poarch Creeks to buy a cardroom in or around the Jacksonville area. That room could later be upgraded to a casino resort.
$7K to Leave the State
According to the lawsuit, LVS hired a private investigator, identified in court documents as “Circulator A,” who posed as a campaigner on the FVC campaign.
Circulator A says he was approached by a woman working for the blocking campaign. She allegedly offered him $2,000 to switch sides, adding that she would be paid a $500 commission if he did so.
The woman told the private investigator the tribe was paying signature-gatherers who lived out of state $7,000 simply to quit the FVC campaign and leave Florida for at least six weeks. They would get $2,000 up front, then $2,500 three weeks after that, and a final $2,500 after six weeks.
The woman said they would prove they were out of state by logging into the Hard Rock gaming platform, which uses geolocation software to ensure gamblers are based in Florida.
The lawsuit was filed late Wednesday in Leon County state circuit court. It’s asking the court to bar the defendants from interfering in the contractual relationships between the plaintiffs and their petition circulators. It also seeks damages of an amount to be proven at trial.