Las Vegas Sands Drops Pursuit of Ballot Initiative Supporting North Florida Casinos

Las Vegas Sands Drops Pursuit of Ballot Initiative Supporting North Florida Casinos
By Christopher Boan
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

A drive by the Las Vegas Sands Corp. to put before voters a constitutional amendment allowing casinos in north Florida is over for now.

The Sands, which failed to get enough signatures to put its initiative on the ballot, dropped its remaining legal challenges last week, according to a story by the News Service of Florida.

The Sands’ political committee, “Florida Voters in Charge,” spent more than $70 million to bring Vegas-style casinos to north Florida, the News Service of Florida said.

The Seminole Tribe reportedly spent at least $40 million to prevent the Sands from getting its North Florida amendment on the ballot.

The Florida-based tribe is the only party allowed to operate casinos in the Sunshine State. The Seminoles launched mobile Florida sports betting in November, but a federal court ruling shut the Tribe’s app down for violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Why the Sands Corp. is Ending its Ballot Drive

The Sands petition drive failed to reach the 900,000 signatures required by state law on Feb. 1 to qualify for the November ballot.

Florida Voters in Charge filed a lawsuit hoping to extend the deadline, according to the News Service of Florida. That request was denied, and the group dropped its appeal and filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in Leon County Circuit Court on Friday.

During a January earnings call, Las Vegas Sands CEO Rob Goldstein briefly discussed the petition drive.

“It’s a struggle down there,” Goldstein said. “It’s not an easy process to go through, but we’re trying very much to be in the hunt in Florida. We really appreciate how underserved that market is and the opportunities exist for a land-based top-tier casino in that market. It would be wonderful.”

Last week, Sarah Bascom, who serves as a spokesperson for the Florida Voters in Charge committee, told the News Service of Florida her group, “has begun the process of winding down the committee and its efforts for the 2022 election cycle.”

“While the committee believes that it submitted more than the required number of voter signatures to make the 2022 ballot, the various obstacles the committee would have to overcome in order to vindicate those voters and make the ballot — the most recent of which is the passage of a law calling into question the availability of Supreme Court review of the ballot language — makes achievement of that goal untenable,” Bascom said, referencing the state’s elections law that passed in March.

Where Sands Goes from Here

Bascom declined to comment about whether the committee would try their luck again in 2024, especially given Florida’s 2019 law that made it illegal to pay ballot initiative signature gatherers on the number of petitions they collected.

Ballot petitions are only valid for one calendar year in Florida, meaning organizers would have to start from scratch if they were to revive their efforts for the 2024 election.

A sports betting petition championed by DraftKings and FanDuel also failed to garner enough signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot.

The initiative by the group Florida Education Champions sought to diversify the state’s future sports betting launch — beyond the compact signed with the Seminole Tribe that allowed their Hard Rock Digital platform to be the lone mobile sportsbook in the state.

The Florida Education Champions ballot drive generated less than 500,000 signatures just a few days before the Feb. 1 deadline. The drive needed more than 891,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

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Contributors

Christopher Boan writes for FloridaBet.com and has been covering sports and sports betting for more than seven years, with experience at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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