New Florida Sports Betting Voter Ballot Initiative Favors Seminoles, Draftkings and FanDuel

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:

It is looking less likely that mobile sports betting will be coming to fruition for the 2021 college football season.

The House voted 97-17 to approve a gambling compact that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and the tribe signed back in April. The Senate followed up with its own approval last month. The Department of the Interior must make a final approval, though none of this may matter in the short term.

The effort to allow mobile sports wagering statewide is already being challenged by both the mayor of Miami Beach and the No Casinos group.  Each have sent letters to the Department of the Interior urging this new agreement be rejected. 

The No Casinos group has taken things one step further.  They pointed out how the deal could ultimately help former President Donald Trump obtain a gambling license for his resort hotel in Doral.

“Its legal flaws are so evident, that many members of the Florida Legislature admitted while voting for it that it ran afoul of state and federal laws,” wrote John Sowinski, president of No Casinos to Bryan Newland, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

In 2018, an amendment was passed in the Sunshine State that gives Florida voters the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize any type of casino gambling expansion.  The Seminoles argue that mobile betting offered statewide would still be taking place on tribal land via servers in already authorized casinos.  But that is an argument the federal government shot down more than two decades ago against one of the founders of offshore sportsbook World Sports Exchange, Jay Cohen. During Cohen's trial in 2000 lawyers argued that servers taking bets were located in Antigua where laws permitted sports wagering.  He was ultimately found guilty of breaking federal law and served nearly two years behind bars.

A new ballot initiative believed to be backed by DraftKings and FanDuel and under the guise of "helping fund education initiatives" was filed this week in likely anticipation for rejection of the current measure.  The new amendment includes language that favors both companies as well as the Seminoles.  Licenses would only be granted to those companies that already operate in a set number of US states, a number that few but DraftKings and FanDuel have reached (and just barely).  Language pertaining to the compact allows the Seminoles to participate by default.

A threshold of 60% or more of the voters must be reached.  That number could prove difficult. In Colorado, a similar ballot initiative just barely passed by 50%. 12 of Louisiana's 64 parishes either voted against it or were deemed close calls.  It should be noted, however, that most of the 52 parishes that approved sports betting did so with better than 60% of the vote.

- Gilbert Horowitz, Gambling911.com

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