Seminole Tribe, Vegas casinos involved in high stakes battle over Florida gambling

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When Florida voters passed Amendment three in 2018, they may have thought they put the brakes on expanded gambling.

However, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican leaders forged a new agreement in May giving the Seminole Tribe exclusive control of online sports betting in exchange for billions in future revenue to the state: around $6 billion in revenue through 2030.

The deal is being attacked by Las Vegas casinos and sports betting companies.

A group called Florida Voters In Charge led by former Rick Scott general counsel Will Spicola, also a DeSantis appointee, is getting more than $17 million from Las Vegas Sands to support a petition which authorizes three new casinos in north Florida and another that authorizes businesses with active card room licenses to offer casino gaming.

Another group called Florida Education Champions is getting $20 million from DraftKings and FanDuel to support a third petition authorizing sports and event betting in Florida.

Petitions need to be submitted by Jan. 1 to give elections officials enough time to verify signatures prior to the Feb. 1 deadline.

Elections officials are swamped thumbing through all the paperwork to try and verify the signatures. In Orange County, there are more than 16,000.

To fight back, the Seminole Tribe is spending $10 million on ads urging voters not to sign petitions.

“We don't need it and we have a pretty strong history of turning it down when it goes to the ballot,” John Sowinski said.

Sowinski of "No Casinos" is also fighting the petitions and suing the Interior Department, saying its approval of the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe (compact) will significantly expand gambling without voter approval.

“That flies in the face of three federal laws and Florida's Constitution,” Sowkinski said.

Card rooms, like those in Volusia County, racing and Jai-alai venues all stand to profit more under the Seminole compact.