Gambling petitions for 2022 are posting long-shot odds in final days

Poker Chips with roulette, gambling games concept.
Less than two weeks out, a sports betting petition drive is 484,000 signatures short; a North Florida casino drive, 298,000 short.

With less than two weeks remaining to get on the 2022 ballot, two gambling constitutional amendment campaigns now appear to be long shots to gain enough verified petitions to qualify.

A proposed North Florida casino drive would have to more than double the speed of its petition effort throughout the closing days until the Feb. 2 deadline.

The proposal to legalize sports betting in Florida this year may be entering the realm of the impossible.

Combined, the two campaigns have spent more than $90 million, and that might all be lost if neither succeed.

Both of the campaigns, Florida Voters In Charge — a Las Vegas Sands-backed group seeking voter approval for a North Florida casino —and Florida Education Champions — a FanDuel and DraftKings-backed group seeking voter approval for open sports betting — are hundreds of thousands of verified voter petition signatures short of what they need to turn in to the Secretary of State by Feb. 2.

Florida’s 67 county Supervisors of Elections offices are processing petitions for both campaigns. Those offices are increasingly looking as if they do not have enough time or manpower to verify the signatures the campaigns need. That’s if the organizations even submit enough enough signatures to supervisors’ desks.

According to almost real-time data posted Friday afternoon by the Secretary of State’s Division of Elections, Florida Education Champions’ petition drive was at least 484,964 signatures short of what is needed. There are 12 days remaining — including weekends — to reach the bare minimum, legally-required number of 891,589.

That would require Florida Education Champions to add more than verified 40,000 petition signatures on average each day for the stretch run. In the past 10 days — presumably also presenting the same sense of urgency — the campaign has averaged only about 11,000 signatures per day.

Florida Voters In Charge may be a little closer, but will still need a turbocharged petition verification effort through the last 12 days. That organization has 592,790 verified signatures in hand, though some were wasted, as they were collected in the wrong congressional district.

Florida Voters In Charge is 298,799 verified signatures short. That would require an average of more than 26,000 new verified signatures per day for the 12-day stretch run. In the past 10 days, Florida Voters In Charge has been averaging gaining just over 12,000 newly verified signatures per day.

“Supervisors of Elections are verifying petitions and we will wait for their official count,” said Florida Voters In Charge spokesperson Sarah Bascom.

The speed of those verification efforts is out of the campaigns’ hands.

Though both groups have reportedly still been circulating petitions this month, there no longer is any guarantee that submitted petitions would even be looked at by Supervisors of Elections offices. Officials have up to 30 days to process petitions. So any guarantee that petitions could be processed in time ended on Jan. 3.

There is no way to know how many valid signatures may be stacked up on supervisors’ desks, or how many of those might yet get checked out and counted.

Both campaigns’ goals are complicated by requirements that they do more than just reach statewide minimums. They must also achieve minimum numbers of valid petition signatures in each of Florida’s 27 congressional districts. The requirements vary, depending on each district’s voter turnout in the 2020 General Election. District minimums range from about 24,000 to about 41,000 valid signatures each.

Through Friday, Florida Voters in Charge had reached the required threshold in only one, Florida’s 5th Congressional District in North Florida. The campaign had less than half of what it needed in nine of the other congressional districts. And in CD 5, the organization collected 23,633 more signatures than it needed, and those won’t help at all with the campaign requirements in the other 26 districts.

As of Friday, Florida Education Champions didn’t have what it needs in any of the 27 districts, and has less than half of what it needs in 14 districts.

Both groups said they started their petition drives in earnest around Labor Day, Sept. 6, 2021.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, through Dec. 31, Florida Voters In Charge had spent $45 million on its effort, and Florida Education Champions had dumped $36 million into its effort.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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