Florida Sports Betting Referendum Fails To Qualify For Fall Ballot

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Florida Education Champions, the group behind efforts to bring a sports betting referendum to Florida voters this fall, acknowledged this afternoon they won’t see their question on the ballot come November. 

While pursuing our mission to add sports betting to the ballot we ran into some serious challenges, but most of all the COVID surge decimated our operations and ability to collect in-person signatures,” Christina Johnson, spokesperson for FEC, said in an emailed statement to reporters. 

Johnson added the group “will be considering all options in the months ahead” to bring sports betting to the state.

FEC had partnered with DraftKings and FanDuel to promote the referendum. Under the terms of the proposal, sports betting would have been legalized outside the purview of the Seminole Tribe, meaning it would not be subject to government approval. 

Florida law required 891,589 valid signatures by Feb. 1.  As of today, the group had 477,112, according to the Florida Division of Elections website. 

Where Does Sports Betting Stand In Florida

Sports betting was legal in the Sunshine State for a hot minute, roughly three weeks last fall.  But a federal judge struck down the compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state, which had paved the way for mobile sports betting.  

The compact had stipulated since the servers processing mobile bets were located on tribal property it fell within the guidelines of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.  The act stipulates all gambling activity done in conjunction with tribes must be done “on Indian lands.”

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich said this argument was pure “fiction.”  The case now is under appeal and it is expected to take months before a verdict is reached. 

Why The Sports Betting Referendum Failed To Gain Steam

DraftKings and FanDuel pledged millions of dollars to back the referendum.  It was an effort to expedite sports betting as well as take the Seminoles out of the equation.  

As recently as Jan 15 DraftKings had been offering $100 per registered Florida bettor if the initiative made the ballot. 

The Seminoles are the only game in town when it comes to gambling in Florida, but even after the compact was agreed to in May 2021, opponents argued it violated state law on a number of levels. 

Not wanting to lose out on the multi-million dollar industry, Politico reported the Seminole Tribe paid signature workers money to NOT collect signatures on behalf of the referendum.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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