Sports Betting Beat - These Are The Companies Pumping Money Into Florida Sports Betting Effort

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:

Most with skin in the game have accepted that legalized sports betting won't come into fruition without a voter referendum. 

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Governor Ron DeSantis signed a massive gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida in May that included sports bettingBut any form of gambling expansion must be approved by Florida voters.  Nobody is buying that statewide mobile sports gambling is not actually expansion since bets will be placed on the servers located on Seminole land.  That's an argument that was shot down by the federal government 20 years ago when offshore sportsbooks claimed the same thing, and the Feds came after them.

The Seminoles joined forces with an unlikely partner in an effort to get the gambling expansion referendum on the Florida ballot a few years back.  Their partner was none other than Disney, and the motives were completely opposite.  The Seminoles wanted a monopoly while Disney desired no additional casinos in the Sunshine State. 

Now along comes a bunch of outsiders pumping big money into a new referendum.

Las Vegas Sands, FanDuel and DraftKings are the new players in town.

Florida-based Magic City Casino has created a political committee called People Against Regulatory Legislation Addressing You (PARLAY), pumping $15 million into that entity for purposes yet to be determined.

The Seminoles have given $10 million towards a political committee, Voters in Control Inc.  The Miami Herald notes that they may undermine their own gambling deal with the state.

The sudden dump of nearly $62 million in political contributions from a single industry is an unprecedented amount in Florida but was the result of a new law passed by legislators and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis this year that limited contributions for signature gathering efforts on ballot initiatives to $3,000 per entity beginning July 1. In an attempt to avoid being constrained by the cap on contributions, the gambling interests front loaded their contributions by writing generous checks before the effective date of the law.

Each company has its own agenda.  For example, FanDuel and DraftKings are vying for their own online sports betting deal to be approved by Florida voters while the Seminole Tribe is fighting to defend its 30-year gaming compact and near monopoly.

Las Vegas Sands, which has mostly fought to prevent casinos from going online, simply wants to break into the Florida market.  The company is now run by the widow of Sheldon Adelson, a one time GOP mega donor.  Miriam Adelson and her late husband were especially generous, and early, supporters of DeSantis.  Las Vegas Sands would like to buy a gambling license from an existing parimutuel and get voter approval to offer sports betting, slot machines or casino games, several gambling sources told the Miami Herald.

The owner of Miami’s Magic City Casino, West Flagler Associates, wants to be included in discussions that lead to changes in the state’s gaming industry that impact parimutuel interests.

And this is all beginning to look a lot like California, where gaming interests there each have their own conflicting agendas.  As a result, newly introduced gaming measures simply do not get passed.  PokerStars was trying for years to enter that market to no avail.

The Seminoles are already stuck with Magic City and surely do not want Las Vegas Sands entering their territory.  While they may have flirted with the idea of bringing on a DraftKings or FanDuel as a partner, that may no longer be an attractive option either.

- Gilbert Horowitz,

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