Florida Casino Expansion Will Be On The 2022 Ballot
Three gambling-related constitutional amendments will be on the ballot for Florida voters in 2022, with two giving citizens the ability to expand casino gambling in the Sunshine State.
Shortly after it was revealed that a political action committee called Florida Voters in Charge received a $17 million donation from Las Vegas Sands Corp, the group was able to get enough signatures to get amendments regarding casino expansion on the 2022 ballot.
Thanks in large part to the eight-figure donation, the group was able to gather the 891,589 voter signatures necessary to achieve ballot access, according to a report from Florida Phoenix. Both of these initiatives would functionally end the monopoly that the Seminole Tribe has on casino gaming in Florida.
One of the amendments, 21-15, would authorize three new casinos in the Sunshine State and allow the recently created Florida Gaming Control Commission to award those licenses to any company based on the merit of the application, as long as the location was more than 100 miles away from Seminole-owned casinos.
The second, 21-16, would allow licensed cardrooms to offer full-scale casino gaming as long as the property was at least 130 miles away from a tribal casino and pledged to spend at least $250 million developing the facility.
There were several reports that said since Las Vegas Sands Corp was funding the signature gathering process, the company was looking at breaking into the Florida market. Given the distances listed in the amendments, Jacksonville is the most likely landing spot for the new casino. The PAC’s chairperson, William Spicola, has a home address in Jacksonville Beach.
If 21-16 was passed next November, the most likely course of action would be for the company to buy a large equity stake in an existing cardroom and help fund the updates needed for casino gaming.
In 2018, voters passed an amendment that said any gambling expansion must be passed through a ballot initiative. In terms of number of licensed operators, this would be the first expansion since the Seminole-backed proposal was passed nearly three years ago.
In late June, a PAC dubbed Florida Education Champions got enough signatures to get a sports betting proposal on the ballot as well. The proposed amendment, 21-13, would legalize mobile sports betting statewide, regardless of the pending new gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe. Florida Education Champions received a pair of $10 million donations from sports betting giants FanDuel and DraftKings.
In April, Gov. Ron DeSantis reached a deal with the Seminole Tribe for a new 30-year gaming compact. The agreement would allow both retail and mobile sports betting throughout the state and run by the tribe, as well as expanded gaming options at tribal casinos. The compact would force pari-mutuel facilities to partner with and give a cut of its revenue to the Seminoles in order to operate a sportsbook.
A pair of pari-mutuel facilities filed a federal lawsuit in early July over that provision. The compact was already passed by the legislature and is awaiting federal approval.