Although an attempt by commercial sports betting operators to get a measure on the Florida ballot this year failed, at least one supporter of the measure signaled on Friday that they would be willing to try again. However, it may not happen as soon as some people would like.
DraftKings Co-Founder and CEO Jason Robins touched on the failed Florida initiative during the company’s quarterly earnings call with analysts. DraftKings was a significant funder for Florida Education Champions, the group that led the proposed ballot initiative in the state.
Under Florida law, residents can bring a proposed constitutional amendment up for a vote on the upcoming general election ballot. The two-step process requires proponents to get signatures from registered voters that equal 8 percent of the votes cast in the previous presidential election. That works out to 891,589 signatures. On top of that, though, supporters must also exceed the 8 percent threshold in a majority of the state’s congressional districts.
The deadline to get signatures validated is Feb. 1. In the days leading up to this year’s deadline, Florida Education Champions conceded that it would not make it in time for the November ballot.
Robins cited several factors for coming up short, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a short amount of time for supporters to gather the signatures.
“We are very encouraged, however, by the over 1 million individuals who signed petitions in less than 8 months, which shows that Floridians do want the opportunity to vote on a competitive mobile sports betting market in the state,” Robins said on the call.
Next Florida Election in 2024
The earliest the proposed amendment could appear on the state ballot would be in 2024. That means that if voters were to approve the initiative, apps like DraftKings and FanDuel wouldn’t be ready to launch until sometime in mid-2025 at the earliest.
We are exploring all options to ensure that Floridians get that opportunity as soon as possible,” Robins said. “And if we were to refile, we are very confident that, given the extended time frame, we will be able to qualify for the 2024 ballot.”
Robins did not expound on what those options included.
Aside from 36 small-money donations of $100 or less, Florida Education Champions received all of its funding from DraftKings and FanDuel – considered the country’s two largest sports betting operators. DraftKings contributed nearly $22.9 million of the $37.4 million the group received.
While the two giants led the organization, it’s very likely that a 2024 effort would also involve other operators. As proponents were trying to meet the 2022 deadline in the final days, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy posted a video online urging Barstool supporters in Florida to sign a petition.
Barstool, a Penn National Gaming product, is one of the operators working with DraftKings and FanDuel on a similar initiative in California. In all, seven operators have pledged to spend $100 million to get a measure on the California ballot to legalize mobile sports betting across the state, with the bulk of the tax revenue generated going to fund programs to combat homelessness and support mental health programs.
Supporters in California reached a key milestone last month by reaching the 25 percent mark of the 997,139 signatures from registered voters needed for the measure to make the ballot. They have until late April to gather the signatures and get county officials to verify them.
Tribal nations in California, which have proposed measures of their own, have vowed to oppose the commercial gaming effort.
Federal Court Sets Deadline in Seminole Sports Betting Case
In other Florida sports betting news, the federal court that will hear appeals by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the US Department of the Interior issued a March 21 deadline for the parties to submit proposed formats for briefings in the case.
Both parties are appealing a November decision by US District Judge Dabney Friedrich. She sided with two Florida pari-mutuel operators in a November ruling nullifying the amended gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe and Florida officials. That compact gave the Seminole Tribe exclusive statewide rights to sports betting. However, the pari-mutuel operators argued that Interior Department officials should have rejected the agreement because it did not adhere to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
While the tribe and the federal government have different reasons for appealing, the order issued Friday in the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit “strongly urges” the parties to submit a joint proposal and noted that parties file a joint brief when appropriate.
“Whether the parties are aligned or have disparate interests, they must provide detailed justifications for any request to file separate briefs or to exceed in the aggregate the standard word allotment,” the order stated.
It’s uncertain when the deadline would be for those briefs, meaning the circuit panel would not likely rule on the case until the latter portion of the year at the earliest.
Regardless of when the appeals court makes its decision and how it rules in the case, the decision will likely be appealed for a Supreme Court review by the losing side.
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