DraftKings, FanDuel pony up millions for Florida sports betting voting initiative
DraftKings and FanDuel have contributed $10 million each to a campaign to legalize sports betting in Florida in the 2022 election.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the two sportsbook titans contributed $20 million total in an effort to get a voting initiative on the 2022 ballot that would allow voters to decide the fate of Florida sports betting in the state.
New Florida sports betting political committee
The sportsbook operators donated the funds to Florida Education Champions, a newly created political action committee backing the sports betting initiative, according to the Florida Department of State campaign finance activity records. The committee is currently drumming up support for the voting initiative in the state and trying to collect the needed 891,589 valid signatures to place the question on the 2022 ballot.
We're off to the races in our campaign to bring more sports betting to Florida and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to Florida schools! Visit https://t.co/4jkDJukjGT to request your petition today! pic.twitter.com/EDXbe3egFb
— Florida Education Champions (@FloridaEdChamps) July 1, 2021
The Florida Division of Elections accepted and published the 2022 Florida ballot initiative, which if approved would authorize sports and event betting under Florida law at professional sports venues and parimutuel facilities. It would also allow Florida online sports betting through third-party operators and by Native American tribes with a gaming compact.
Tax revenue brought in through sports betting would be used to finance an Education Enhancement Trust Fund for the state.
Several challenges to Florida sports betting
The measure would circumvent the recently approved 30-year gaming compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The compact gives exclusive rights for all sports wagering to Seminole Tribe controlled sportsbooks, or qualified parimutuel permitholders to offer sports betting at their facilities.
The legality of online sports betting is still a concern for operators as the U.S. Department of the Interior reviews the deal. As written gaming compact allows for the Seminole Tribe to offer online sports betting through a “hub-and-spoke” program for qualified parimutuels and online sportsbook operators. However, throughout the process a number of representatives shared concerns that the gaming compact may not fully pass the federal review.
It has been a cause for unease throughout the proceedings for operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel, as there may be a chance the U.S. Department of the Interior declares the online sports betting component as illegal. Online sports betting could be left out of the gaming compact for good and effectively shut out third-party online sportsbook operators.
In addition to the governmental challenges, the compact is also facing a lawsuit from within the state. On Friday, July 1, West Flagler Associates, on behalf of Magic City Casino, and Bonita Springs Poker Room filed the first lawsuit challenging Florida’s tribal sports betting compact. The lawsuit contends the online sports betting component of the document violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, argues that online sports betting outside of tribal lands is illegal. The 30-year gaming compact contains language claiming that online sports betting off of tribal land is legal, as the bets are process through Seminole Tribe internet servers that are physically located on tribal lands. The lawsuit requests the court to prohibit sports betting from the gaming compact.
The plaintiffs argue that casinos in the state will lose millions in revenue if Florida residents can participate in sports wagering from their own homes.
“As a result of these provisions, pari-mutuels that are unable to or choose not to enter into a marketing agreement with the Tribe will be unable to compensate for the loss of revenue from in person patrons diverted by online sports betting,” the plaintiffs wrote in the lawsuit.