All-powerful Florida tribal gaming operator the Seminoles are plowing millions of dollars into a new political committee called “Standing Up for Florida,” Florida Politics reports.
The tribe is hoping to sabotage efforts by out-of-state gaming companies that want to challenge its gambling monopolies via voter-led petitions.
Standing Up for Florida has kicked off its campaign with an TV and digital media ad titled “Watch Out, Florida.” The ad’s tagline is a stern warning to voters: “Don’t Sign Petitions.”
Out-of-state gambling companies are spending tens of millions to turn our state into another Las Vegas. They want to change our constitution to allow out-of-control gambling with no guarantees for us and big profits for them,” the TV spot claims.
The Seminoles hold a virtual monopoly on casino gaming in Florida (bar a handful of slots licensees in Broward and Miami-Dade counties) at their seven Hard Rock-branded casinos, and they want it to stay that way. They also now hold a monopoly on sports betting, thanks to a new compact agreement negotiated with Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Voters in Charge?
While the tribe does not name these dangerous out-of-staters, its targets are clear. LVS Corp and its powerful lobbyists have been sniffing around Florida for years in the hope that someone might let them build a casino resort.
Now the Las Vegas-based company has teamed up with Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians on a ballot initiative called “Florida Voters in Charge.”
The initiative asks voters to change the state constitution to allow parimutuel card rooms in North Florida to become full-fledged casinos, provided they are 130 miles away from the Seminole reservation.
Theoretically, this could allow LVS or the Poarch Creek to purchase a card room that could then be transformed into a casino resort in or around the Jacksonville area.
Meanwhile, DraftKings and FanDuel want voters to back a more inclusive mobile sports betting market, specifically one that includes them.
This is via their committee, “Florida Education Champions,” which promises that disrupting the Seminole monopoly will bring more revenue to schools.
As the Seminoles note in their campaign, they pay $500 million to the state each year. And they would have a case to renegotiate in this figure downwards if Florida Education Champions’ vision ever became a reality.
The two initiatives need 891,589 signatures from registered state voters to be placed on the ballot in 2022.
Could Amendment 3 Backfire?
Ironically, the tribe championed a ballot initiative of their own back in 2018. At elections that year Florida residents passed Amendment 3, which established that all casino gaming expansion must be approved by voters in a public ballot.
The campaign was bankrolled by the Seminoles with the help of Disney. And despite the tribe’s current advice not to sign petitions in general, it got the necessary signatures, and ultimately the votes, to become law.
The tribe believed this would help safeguard their monopoly because it would prevent the legislature from approving laws that benefitted commercial gaming interests.
But it also gave a bunch of “interfering out-of-staters” an outside chance of gaining the kind of ground in Florida that the legislature has resisted for years.