Gambling interests’ efforts to get Florida voters to consider expanding casino gambling and sports betting are raising the stakes — pouring another $22 million into their campaigns in October.
The cash infusion fuels frenetic petition drives by Florida Education Champions, a committee backed by the fantasy sports giants DraftKings and FanDuel seeking to expand sports betting in Florida; and by Florida Voters In Charge, a committee backed by Las Vegas Sands Corp. seeking to create opportunities for casinos in North Florida.
Between them they’ve spent more than $32 million over four months.
“DraftKings and FanDuel continue to support the efforts of Florida Education Champions in getting this pro-education, pro-consumer choice amendment on the November 2022 ballot,” said Christina Johnson, spokesperson for Florida Education Champions. “We believe that giving big Seminole casino bosses a monopoly is not good for Floridians who want choice and competition related to their online sports betting platforms.”
“We have said from day one we will have the resources to be successful,” said Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for Florida Voters In Charge. “We are confident in our program and look forward to being on the ballot and letting the voters be the ultimate deciders on the future of gaming in Florida.”
In October, Florida Education Champions spent $6 million on its constitutional amendment petition drive and advertising to promote it, according to the latest reports posted by the Florida Division of Elections. That committee now has burned through $16.2 million since forming in late June.
Florida Education Champions now has raised $32.8 million, and, with the fresh money from DraftKings, entered November with about $16.5 million still in the bank.
In its separate effort, Florida Voters In Charge spent $2 million in October. That committee now has spent $16 million since forming in late June, according to the latest campaign finance filings.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. poured $10 million into the fund in late October. Las Vegas Sands now has provided $27 million for the campaign, while the Poarch Creek Band of Indians of Alabama has contributed $1 million.
Florida Voters in Charge now has taken in $28 million, and entered November with $12 million left to spend.
At the same time, a committee backed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has most of the state’s gambling authorization through the 2021 Florida Gaming Compact approved this year, is trying to thwart Florida Education Champions and Florida Voters In Charge. The Tribe’s Standing Up for Florida spent nearly $5.6 million in October on TV commercials urging Floridians not to sign any gambling petitions, according to its latest filings.
For DraftKings, FanDuel, and Las Vegas Sands, the clock is ticking, fast, on their petition drives.
The two petition drives each need 891,589 verified voters’ signatures by January. Neither is close, according to the latest updates posted by the Florida Secretary of State.
Both committees contend they have a lot more petitions gathered than current numbers show, and say the holdup is in the bureaucracy of verification. Florida Education Champions says it has more than 400,000 petitions in various stages of being verified.
As of Thursday morning, Florida Education Champions had 91,524 voter signatures fully verified.
Florida Voters In Charge had 109,981.
Both campaigns have previously told Florida Politics they have tens of thousands more petitions in the pipeline at the county elections supervisors level.