At first glance, the $10 million donations from DraftKings and FanDuel to support open FL sports betting might seem like a lot.
Gaming expansion is always fought hard in Florida,though. That means the $20 million to start the so-called Florida Education Champions is probably nowhere near enough.
So far, the two biggest US sports betting operators are the only donors to the petition that would open online FL sportsbooks to more than just the Seminole Indians. That would effectively undo the exclusivity handed to the Seminole through the recently negotiated compact.
That compact still needs federal approval, though. Not everyone expects that will happen with the mobile sports betting language included.
Either way, it certainly will take more than $20 million to win the necessary 60% approval to pass the referendum.
FL sports betting fight could cost big bucks
Both the Seminole Indians and the Walt Disney Co. are no strangers to spending big to dictate gambling in the state. Both are on the same side of the anti-expansion argument historically.
The two sides showed that when they spent big on Amendment 3 in 2018. That’s the amendment that prevents any gambling expansion not approved by 60% of voters.
According to campaign finance records, the Seminole contributed $24.6 million while Disney contributed $20.6 million. That spending was countered by under $2 million in donations to Vote No on 3 PAC.
Other ballot initiatives coming?
DraftKings and FanDuel were not the only gaming companies to drop some cash, according to filings found by the Tampa Bay Times.
Las Vegas Sands donated $17 million to Florida Voters in Charge. A spokesperson told the Times the group is contemplating its options.
Sands is undergoing a bit of an overhaul since former CEO Sheldon Adelson died earlier this year. Once firmly opposed to iGaming, the company recently announced plans to invest in digital opportunities.
Local gambling companies are getting involved as well. The owners of Magic City Casino donated $15 million to People Against Regulatory Legislation Addressing You, or PARLAY. The group will make sure parimutuel interests are protected, a spokesperson told the Times.
Ex-legislator: mobile FL sports betting language ‘smart trick play’
There are varying opinions on what might happen with the mobile FL sports betting language in the Seminole compact, which has already brought one lawsuit.
Brandt Iden, head of government affairs at Sportradar, told a panel at the recent National Council of Legislators from Gaming States conference in Chicago he thinks the compact will pass through the Department of Interior without resistance:
“I don’t think, my personal opinion, that the Department of Interior is going to do anything. I think 45 days is going to pass, they’re going to let it lapse, it’s an agreement between the state and the tribes and they’ve moved on.”
Florida view differs
Iden then asked fellow panelist Steve Geller, a former Florida legislator and current Broward County mayor, his thoughts. To say Geller disagreed might be putting it lightly:
“I believe that it will be stricken but the Indians in several cases put a severability clause in. So what I think will end up happening – because they have really good lawyers and the tribe leadership is really, really smart – what will end up happening is that all of the non-reservation gambling, sports betting, will be stricken.
“That will result in a lower payout by the tribe and they will be the only people in the state that will have legal sports betting but it will be limited to their reservation, which is what they wanted all along. So I think it was a really smart trick play on their part.”