The drive to get the nearly 900,000 petition signatures to put statewide mobile sports wagering on the November ballot in Florida took yet another twist Thursday night with Dave Portnoy’s entrance.
The Barstool Sportsbook frontman and Barstool Sports founder added his voice — via Twitter — to a late push in support of the Florida Educations Champions initiative started by fellow mobile operators DraftKings and FanDuel.
Portnoy’s dramatic entrance is somewhat fitting given the chaos that has surrounded sports wagering in the Sunshine State. The Seminole Tribe actually conducted digital wagering for five weeks with its Hard Rock Sportsbook app in late 2021 after signing a compact with the state in May that essentially gave the Seminoles a monopoly on mobile betting.
That compact was challenged in court, and a federal appellate court in December ruled that the tribe should cease offering sports betting, upholding a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling that the 2021 compact between the tribe and the state should be vacated. Those decisions mean Hard Rock is currently operating under the terms of its 2010 compact with the state, which does not include sports wagering.
The road to the ballot and to legal sports betting in Florida has been filled with accusations, finger pointing, and lawsuits, with the Sands Corp. also seeking a ballot initiative to expand gaming in Florida on a broader level. The Seminoles are currently fighting challenges both in Florida and in federal appellate court, where the legality of their compact hangs in the balance. Should the Leon County Court find in the Seminoles’ favor, however, it would effectively eliminate the chance for the Sands proposal to get on the ballot. All signatures for initiatives must be approved by Feb. 1, and 891,589 are required.
According to the state Department of Elections website, the Sands initiative had 426 signatures verified as of Thursday. Florida Education Champions, the political committee for the DraftKings-FanDuel proposal, had 328,760 verified. The DOE website does not reflect how many signatures have been collected, but how many the state has verified. Sources close to both campaigns say they are “confident” the signature goals will be
Portnoy enters the picture
Emergency Press Conference – I Am Here to Save Sports Gambling in Florida pic.twitter.com/2Ne6DQ97D9
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) January 14, 2022
Penn National Gaming was rebuffed in a bid to have its Barstool Sportsbook among the initial nine entrants in the recently launched New York mobile sports wagering scene. Future access to one of the other three big “Holy Grail” states — Florida, California, and Texas — is thus a priority, to add to the 11 states where Barstool Sportsbook already operates.
Portnoy, the best social media pitchman in the sports betting ecosphere and one with unrivaled reach, discussed the Florida ballot initiative this week in one of his “emergency press conferences” from his new Miami home, while calling himself a “local resident.”
“Do you want Barstool Sportsbook in Florida?” Portnoy asked his 2.7 million Twitter followers. “Our competitors, who trashed me behind closed doors, now they’re asking for my help. ‘We know you’re the king of Florida, get us the signatures.’ Barstool Sportsbook, FanDuel, DraftKings, we all can be here.
“But we got to get it on the ballot in November to let the voters to decide yes or no — do you want sports gambling in November? Or do you just want the Seminoles? Because if you just have the Seminoles, you’re not going to have the sharp lines, you’re not getting the promos … you’ll have one option, it’s bad for people.”
In the second half of the message, Portnoy provided the options registered voters have to add their signatures — a number to text, and a QR code to be used for mail to be sent to a person who wants to sign the petition.
“Tell your friends, tell your enemies,” Portnoy exhorted his Stoolies. “My enemies asked me for help. We just want the choice. In November, put it on the ballot — do you want private sports betting here, yes or no? How do we do it? Signatures, signatures, signatures by the end of January.”
Portnoy then closed with his trademark rhetorical flourish: “Who doesn’t want to sports gamble? Shop lines! Get us all here, put us on the ballot!”