The Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Las Vegas Sands Corp. are engaged in a legal dispute over the expansion of gaming rights to North Florida’s pari-mutuel operators, which is escalating the debate over Florida’s gambling future.
The gambling industry has been expanding its reach over the decade. Casinos in Detroit reported monthly revenue of $105.6 million for May 2023. But not all states are yet ready to welcome the change.
The Seminole Tribe now manages the only casinos in the style of Las Vegas in the Sunshine State, but a proposed referendum that might be put before voters in November 2022 would alter that. A political action organization called Florida Voters in Charge, which receives the majority of its funding from the Las Vegas Sands Corp., has started a campaign to collect enough signatures to put the question of gambling rights before Floridians in a statewide ballot proposal in November 2022. Florida Voters in Charge have filed a lawsuit against the Seminole Tribe-funded political action organization Standing up for Florida, accusing the group of interfering with the process and harassing organizers. According to regional news networks and court documents, William Shepherd, an attorney of West Palm Beach, represented SUFP, in response, has accused the FVC PAC of refusing to pay signature gatherers when they did not meet quotas and illegal gathering and forging signatures.
The FVC ballot issue would enable gaming businesses in North Florida to add casino products to their offerings. Additionally, it would make it possible to build a gambling establishment in North Florida in the style of Las Vegas. According to local news sources, Las Vegas Sands has donated up to $50 million to the battle surrounding the project in Jacksonville.
The debate over the construction of more casinos comes as a contentious sports betting agreement struck by the state and the Seminole Tribe draws to an end. The Seminole Tribe will have almost total control over Florida’s online sportsbooks after Florida legislators approved an expansion of the state's gambling compact with the Tribe in a special session in May 2021. The agreement would have let the Tribe's Hard Rock Sportsbook app, which made its debut in early November 2021, provide online sports betting. Thanks to the application, players would not have needed to be present on Seminole property physically; a loophole has caused the law to be temporarily suspended.
Despite the fact that the measure was signed by Gov. DeSantis and went into in May of 2021, multiple lawsuits claim that the agreement is illegal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Seminole Tribe discontinued the Hard Rock Sportsbook app in December 2021 after a federal judge rejected the agreement. Legal Sports Report claims that the Seminole Tribe has filed an appeal against the ruling.
The political action committee (PAC) Florida Education Champions has been gathering signatures to launch a second sports betting item on the November 2022 statewide ballot in response to all the controversy. The campaign gained enough signatures, according to Ballotpedia, but Florida election authorities have until February 1 to confirm the signatures.