Despite Florida’s newly agreed upon contract with the Seminole Tribe which essentially grants book maker rights exclusively to tribe run operations, the state has now done a 180 and is pushing to legalize sports betting. A ballot-based petition to legalize sports betting is currently in the pipeline with the Florida Division of Elections looking to open it up for voting in 2022.
Ryan Ash who is the deputy director of external affairs had stated just days ago that the ballot initiative was under review and if all goes smoothly, will be approved. The initiative has been titled Sports and Event Betting. More recently, the Division of Elections is said to have approved the proposals which will be implemented as constitutional amendments.
FanDuel and DraftKings have unquestionable motive to push for legalization
The word around town is that sportsbook giants such as FanDuel and DraftKings are lobbying and providing the required financial stimulus to push for legalization of sports betting in Florida. As a result of the initiative being successful, Florida would become a huge market for these companies.
No reference to Online Casino Gambling
The ballot initiative makes no reference to casino games. This side of the regulation seems heading for further debate as Florida tries to decide its way forward for online casinos. Other initiative could see online casinos regulated and licensed in the state in the next few years. In the meantime, Floridians have been warned not to play and the many unlicensed online casinos even if they are enticed by the extremely generous promotions.
The initiative will allow betting through multiple channels
The proposed and now approved constitutional amendment which is titled 21 – 13 will effectively facilitate legal sports and event betting at sporting venues such as stadiums of professional teams, pari-mutuel facilities and also at online sports betting portals. However, only authorized personnel shall the rights to operate online sports betting and offer services state wide. Aside from authorized operators, the Seminole Tribe will also be allowed to operate online sports betting websites.
Furthermore, 21 – 13 also calls for further legislation in order to regulate and tax sports betting operators. All revenue raised by the state through taxing sports betting operations will go towards the Educational Enhancement Trust fund.
PAC Florida Education Champions working to get the bill to the general ballot in November 2022
A political action committee which calls itself Florida Education Champions was formed recently (registered in June 2021), and this committee sponsored the amendment. Among the members of this political action committee is David Johnson who is a Republican general strategic consultant and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. According to Christina Johnson who is the spokesperson for the political action committee, online sports betting giants such DraftKings and FanDuel are fuelling the committee and spearheading the initiative from behind the scenes.
Constitutional Amendment 21 – 13 touted as being Pro – Education
The committee claims that they are a group of people that have a common vision for the betterment of education in the state and are actively looking for means the increase the funds available for public education. The committee is now seeking out donors to support the cause of legalizing sports betting in Florida. With sufficient sponsors and support, the committee hopes to get the proposed amendment in front of voters in November of 2022. The committee terms the initiative as being ‘pro-education’ rather than being ‘pro-gambling’. The petition requires a minimum of 891.589 signatures to make it to the general ballot in November 2022. Furthermore, the wording of the amendment will also need to be reviewed and approved by the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court will only initiate this review once the petition receives at least 222,898 signatures.
Chairman of No Casinos, John Sowinski, opposed to the amendment
One vocal opponent of the amendment is John Sowinski who refutes the claims that the amendment is pro education. He said in a statement that sports betting is about gambling and not education. In a written statement, Sowinski stated that they oppose the amendment and if the amendment makes it to the ballot, he is positive that Floridians will not vote it into effect.
The written statement further elaborated on the addictive nature of internet and mobile gambling. It insinuated that online sports betting goes deeper than just betting on outcomes and point spreads. It involves mobile apps and internet portals which have been designed to keep players engaged for as long as possible and keep blasting them with notifications to get them gambling whenever they are not. The statement also cited countries where internet gambling has been legalized and regulated, saying these countries show worrying trends in terms of increases in teenage gambling, gambling abuse, and other social and economic costs that have a scope beyond what we can perceive and measure in the short term.
Seminole tribe will lose exclusivity if amendment is passed
Back in May, Florida state and the Seminole Tribe had figured out a contract which would grant exclusive rights to the tribe to offer all sports betting services across the state provided that the servers hosting such applications would be located within assigned tribal lands. This bill was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Needless to say, the tribe is not going to take the ballot initiative proposing legalization and disguised as ‘pro – education’ in good stride.