Florida Sports Betting Update: Referendum Likely Falling Short Of Required Signatures

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An effort to bring sports betting to Florida through a voter referendum appears to be losing steam.

Florida Education Champions, the curiously-named group backing the measure, needs to have 891,589 valid signatures by Feb. 1 to get the referendum on November’s ballot. As of yesterday, according to the Florida Division of Elections, it has collected 272,879.

But Christina Johnson, a spokesperson for Florida Education Champions, said this morning the group is committed to making the deadline. 

“Florida Education Champions continues to collect and submit valid petitions to Supervisor of Elections’ offices across the state. They are working diligently to validate large quantities of petitions already in their offices. We are confident we will have enough signatures to meet the February 1, 2022 deadline,” she wrote in an email to Gaming Today.

FEC gets its name from the beneficiaries should the referendum pass. The proposal stipulates the majority of expected revenue from legalized sports betting would go toward education programs throughout the state. 

DraftKings and FanDuel are backing the proposal, each pledging last summer to spend $10 million to see it happen.  Thus far, they have spent nearly a combined $37 million to see it through.

But FEC seemed to acknowledge the ticking clock, with a Twitter post last week.

If you want @DKSportsbook in Florida, we need your help. Time is running out to sign our petition. Request your petition TODAY! #FLEdChamps #DraftKings #MakeItReign,” the group tweeted on Dec. 27.

Where Sports Betting Stands In Florida

The referendum was aimed at bypassing the contentious battle regarding the historic compact signed in May between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The compact was approved by the Department of Interior in August, and the tribe ran mobile sports betting operations for three weeks in November before a federal judge struck it down. 

The main issue with the compact is the definition of where a mobile bet takes place. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, federal legislation that outlines how tribes can run gaming operations, states gaming must take place “on Indian lands.”

Florida officials and the tribe argued since the servers processing the mobile bets are located on tribal property, the compact was compliant. Opponents of the deal objected. U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich agreed, calling the notion that a bet placed outside tribal lands but processed through a server located on it “fiction.”

The case has been appealed, and it will likely be months before it is settled. 

About the Author
Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with a focus on legislation and political content. Mary 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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