Pending lawsuit, North Florida casino bid fails as petition drive comes up short

gambling gaming cards chips
Florida Voters In Charge suing to get more time.

The campaign for a North Florida casino failed to get enough petition signatures verified to make it onto the 2022 statewide ballot — though the organization behind it is suing for more time.

As the state law deadline passed at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Florida Voters In Charge, a group backed by the Las Vegas Sands Corp. of Nevada, had managed to get just 814,266 petition signatures verified. That is about 77,000 short of the bare minimum 891,589 that Florida law required to be turned in by the deadline in order to get a constitutional amendment proposal eligible for the November General Election ballot.

The petition drive fell far shorter than that. Many of the verified signatures were gathered in the wrong congressional districts. The law requires a minimum number of statewide signatures, and minimum numbers of signatures in each of Florida’s 27 congressional districts. By 5 p.m. Tuesday, Florida Voters In Charge was short in 17 districts, including being about 20,000 signatures short in each of two Panhandle districts where the proposal apparently was less popular.

Yet the organization hopes to convince a judge to grant more time. On Monday, Florida Voters In Charge filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court, contending it had turned in more than enough signatures — but the way the state law was haphazardly administered by Florida and its 67 county supervisors of elections caused the initiative to fail.

The group challenged Florida law provisions regarding petition signature verification and asked a judge to waive the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

Short of that, the money the campaign spent this year and all the petition signatures it gathered are lost. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, through Dec. 31, Florida Voters In Charge had spent $45 million on its effort.

Last week another proposed constitutional amendment to expand gambling in Florida to legalize online sports betting folded, recognizing it had no chance of reaching petition requirements by Tuesday. Florida Education Champions, the organization funded by the big daily fantasy sports platforms DraftKings and FanDuel, was much further behind in the process than Florida Voters In Charge. The sports betting campaign announced Friday it is reassessing long-term options.

Florida Education Champions had dumped more than $36 million into its campaign.

The Seminole Tribe, seeking to protect its market, spent big on counter-campaigning both gambling petitions, trying to convince Florida voters not to sign. The Tribe’s Standing Up For Florida campaign spent $20 million on advertising opposing the petition efforts.

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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