Bookmakers betting on beating Florida petition rules to legalize non-tribal sports gambling

DraftKings and FanDuel earn billions operating their digital sports gambling websites, now they’re betting they can overcome Florida’s restrictive citizen’s initiative rules to pass a ballot measure legalizing sports gaming.

According to “multiple industry sources” cited by Sports Handle, a news site that tracks U.S. sports betting regulations, a newly formed campaign committee backed by DraftKings, FanDuel and other sportsbooks has filed a proposed ballot initiative to legalize mobile wagering in Florida with the state’s Division of Elections (DOE).

As of late Thursday afternoon, the proposed initiative with the name of the committee sponsoring it had not been posted on the DOE’s Initiatives/Amendments database.

A purported draft posted by Sports Handle says sponsors want to ask voters to authorize sports and event betting with tax revenues dedicated to public education in a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot.

Florida lawmakers have already legalized sports gambling, but only via the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock Digital platform, as part of a pending 30-year pact between the state and the tribe awaiting approval by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

After three years of negotiation with the Seminoles, the 75-page pact was approved by lawmakers May 19 and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 25.

The deal grants the Seminoles exclusive control of blackjack, craps, online fantasy and sports betting at its seven casinos and on non-tribal pari-mutuels via its Hard Rock Digital platform.

In exchange, the Seminoles will pay Florida at least $500 million annually for the first five years of the pact, which must be endorsed by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and BIA within 45 days to ensure it complies with the IGRA.

If approved, the pact would need to be published in the Federal Register within 90 days.

But approval is anything but certain and, if approved, lawsuits are certain. An anti-gaming coalition has threatened to sue the state for violating Amendment 3, a 2018 measure that requires a statewide referendum to approve any gambling expansion.

The proposed Florida-Seminoles pact seeks to circumvent Amendment 3 by allowing the tribe to control sports gaming through “a new business model” that forges a “hub-and-spoke” partnership between remote servers on tribal lands and pari-mutuel operators. There are conflicting legal rulings on how remote servers are addressed under the IGRA.

If permitted and upheld, sports betting could be legal in Florida beginning Sept. 9, the day the NFL’s 2021 season kicks off.

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have created state-based sports gaming regulations since the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law banning commercial sports betting in most states in 2018’s Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The American Gaming Association estimates Floridians already spend $7 billion a year on mobile sports bets. DraftKings, FanDuel and other sportsbooks apparently believe they can convince Floridians – in compliance with Amendment 3 – that legalizing sports gaming beyond tribal servers is a worthy “expansion” because of the revenues it can generate for education.

But the biggest gamble will be getting on the ballot in the first place after three years of tightening initiative rules by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

To do so, backers will need to collect and validate 891,589 signatures, including at least 8 percent of voters in 18 of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Campaigns contributions are limited to $3,000 until backers secure the 222,898 validated signatures necessary for a mandated Supreme Court review of ballot language.

If amendments make the ballot, they need at least 60% of the vote to pass.

This article was originally posted on Bookmakers betting on beating Florida petition rules to legalize non-tribal sports gambling

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