Florida: court timeline set for Sands-backed gaming expansion; sports betting initiative needs 500K signatures

Florida: court timeline set for Sands-backed gaming expansion; sports betting initiative needs 500K signatures

The Florida Supreme Court could hear arguments on March 8 on a proposed constitutional amendment seeking a gaming expansion. Las Vegas Sands-backed committee Florida Voters in Charge is seeking to allow existing card rooms to become casinos if they are located 130 miles from tribal facilities.

Justices issued late Tuesday an order setting a timeline for consideration of the proposal, according to information from the News Service of Florida. The amendment would open the door to casinos in North Florida, along the Interstate 10 corridor, and is geared toward a facility in the Jacksonville area.

In order to put the initiative on the November ballot, the committee must submit 891,589 valid petition signatures by February 1, and must have the Supreme Court sign off the proposed ballot wording. As of Monday, the state Division of Elections had received 518,968 petition signatures for the initiative.

On Friday, Attorney General Ashley Moody sent the issue to the Supreme Court after the committee cleared a petition-signature threshold to trigger consideration of the wording, reports Florida Trend. 

The Supreme Court order said opponents of the measure would have to file briefs by January 28, with supporters filing answer briefs by February 7. Opponents could file reply briefs by February 14. Moreover, the order stated the court will “subsequently determine whether to conduct oral argument,” which would be held March 8.

But the Sands-backed petition is not the only one racing against time to appear on the November general election ballot. A DraftKings and FanDuel-backed initiative seeking to launch commercial online sports betting must also collect 891,589 signatures by a February 1 deadline.  

As of Monday, the state Division of Elections had received 318,968 petition signatures for the initiative, meaning it must collect more than 500,000 signatures in just two weeks. Backed by the Florida Education Champions committee, the initiative seeks to legalize online sports wagering in the state for qualified sportsbook operators and state tribes with a gaming compact.

Urgent: Time is running out to legalize sports betting in Florida! Sign our petition TODAY! #FLEdChamps
Request here: https://t.co/eUWgn35ewj pic.twitter.com/KmgpDtGDiZ

— Florida Education Champions (@FloridaEdChamps) January 11, 2022

Given that only 14 days remain until the deadline, signatures would not necessarily have the necessary time to be verified and counted towards the total, further adding pressure to the committee. Election supervisors typically ask for signatures to be submitted at least 30 days prior to a deadline.

The initiative, which has received millionaire contributions from DraftKings and FanDuel, seeks to authorize retail sports betting at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities, plus online sports wagering for sportsbooks and tribes. Taxes would supplement a state educational trust fund.

According to WFTV.com, Florida Education Champions has stated it is still collecting petitions and working “to raise awareness” before the deadline. The group would need to turn in more than 30,000 valid signatures a day until the end of January to meet the needed amount, far above the average the committee has posted daily so far.

Emergency Press Conference – I Am Here to Save Sports Gambling in Florida pic.twitter.com/2Ne6DQ97D9

— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) January 14, 2022

As part of the last push to reach the deadline, Dave Portnoy, Barstool Sports founder, posted a video on his Twitter account on Thursday, urging residents in the Sunshine State to sign the petition.

“We need a million signatures across the state of Florida, registered voters, to get sports gambling put on the ballot for November,” Portnoy says in the video. The initiative approval would give Barstool Sportsbook a chance to enter the state.

“Barstool Sportsbook, FanDuel – We can all be here, but we gotta get it on the ballot to let the voters decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Portnoy adds. He further calls out failed former state plans to only let Seminoles run sports betting “bad for people,” as they would only get “one option.” Registered voters can text “Win” to 888-922-2240 to sign the form, the video explains.