Update: The Seminole Tribe, via spokesperson Gary Bitner issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:
This is a political Hail Mary from out-of-state corporations trying to interfere with the business of the people of Florida. They couldn’t stop Florida’s new Gaming Compact, which passed by an overwhelming 88 percent “yes” vote from Florida’s elected legislators and enjoys 3-1 support from Floridians and guarantees $2.5 billion in revenue sharing. The guarantee is the largest commitment by any gaming company in U.S. history.
The ballot initiative that would bring a more robust online sports betting market to Florida, in what would appear to be an end-around to the deal Gov. Ron DeSantis struck with the Seminole Tribe on May 19, was obtained by Sports Handle this morning.
The ballot initiative is, by any other name, a petition for an amendment to the Florida constitution. This one is straightfoward and almost certain to deliver agita and upheaval for the powers-that-be, foremost the governor and the Seminole Tribe. The ballot title for what is at least a draft, and likely in process of gaining format approval and a serial number, reads:
Authorizes sports and event betting; if betting revenues are taxed, taxes must supplement public education.
That ballot title is sure to please both sports bettors and anyone involved in public schooling in Florida.
The summary explains things further, both practically and procedurally:
Authorizes sports and event betting under Florida law at professional sports venues and parimutuel facilities and statewide via online sports betting platforms by entities authorized to conduct online sports betting, and by Native American tribes with a Florida gaming compact, only for persons age 21 years or older. Requires legislative action to regulate sports betting. Legislature may tax betting revenues, and all such taxes are required to supplement the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.
Only experienced sportsbooks need apply
Test run for California… https://t.co/TLJtg4zCZw
— Richard Schuetz (@Schuetzinc) June 24, 2021
The ballot initiative — which sources tell Sports Handle is being pushed by FanDuel and DraftKings — opens up the playing field for online operators and would allow the powerful Seminoles to participate as well, however not with the monopoly-esque stranglehold that the new, yet-to-be-finalized tribal-state compact would permit.
And FanDuel and DraftKings are also clearly protecting themselves — and other established sportsbooks — by way of limiting who would be allowed to do business in the state. In addition to allowing Native American tribes with a compact to launch a sportsbook, other operators would have to meet a certain threshold.
Online sports and event betting may be conducted by entities and organizations that have been authorized to conduct online sports betting in at least 10 states for at least one calendar year.
In short: Only experienced sportsbooks need apply, at least at first, as after the first 20 months of legalized betting, other sportsbooks and entities not meeting the criteria will be allowed to set up shop.
Current sportsbooks operating in at least 10 states include DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill, and BetMGM, and by late 2022 would very likely include Barstool Sportsbook, WynnBET, PointsBet, and BetRivers, among others.
Additionally, the initiative would allow the sportsbooks to be “untethered” to any brick-and-mortar entity.
Entities and organizations conducting sports and event betting may use a brand of their choice and shall not be required to engage a market access partner.
Market access has proven costly for online operators in other states in the form of upfront fees and revenue-sharing obligations. It is also frequently a contentious element of enabling legislation, most recently seen in Maine, as in-state casino entities have moved to act as gatekeepers to state markets.
The political action committee serving as the vehicle for the ballot initiative is called Florida Education Champions. The petition does not yet appear on the website for the Florida Division of Elections.
Officials for DraftKings and FanDuel did not immediately respond to Sports Handle inquiries regarding the petition.
Lastly, the initiative covers virtually every type of bet, from spread bets to teasers and parlays, as well as pools and exchange wagering.
In order to officially get the possible constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot, backers would have to gain a certain number of signatures, as outlined by the Florida Department of State:
In addition to other requirements, this initiative petition process requires a specific number of petitions to be signed by registered Florida voters before the proposed amendment by initiative can appear on the ballot. Per the Florida Constitution, the number of signatures needed is based on eight percent of the voters who cast votes in the last presidential election.
In 2018, that meant a petition needed 766,200 voters and signatures from at least 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts. According to Florida law, the initiative — which is expected to be on the 2022 ballot — needs 60% voter approval to become law.
Brett Smiley and Jill R. Dorson contributed to this report