***edit: Original reports of this story claimed the ballot initiative in question was based on the Florida Sports Betting Initiative (2022) sponsored by Florida Education Champions. However, the story has been updated to reflect the proper initiative – Florida Casino Gaming Expansion Initiative (2022) after a spokesperson from FEC reached out informing us of our mistake. ***
- The Las Vegas Sands-backed Florida Casino Gaming Expansion ballot initiative is being subjected to yet another controversy, this time for allegedly participating in fraudulent gathering methods.
- This is not the first controversy that has surrounded the ballot initiative, with signature-gatherers having been allegedly harassed and even assaulted by Seminole Tribe contractors.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The newest chapter of the drama between the state of Florida, the Seminole Tribe, and the Las Vegas Sands-backed ballot initiative may be enough to keep sports betting off the ballot in 2022.
Election Fraud Could Derail Initiative
According to election supervisors, election fraud – in this case, the act of submitting illegitimate (typically forged) signatures – is running rampant with the Florida sports betting initiative. The supervisors claim that they have received a large number of illegitimate signatures supporting the Florida Voters In Charge initiative.
Some of these signatures show names of deceased individuals, and some show fraudulent signatures of individuals who did not legitimately sign the petition.
The alleged fraud is so prevalent that Marion County Elections Supervisor Wesley Wilcox claims to have seen his own name signed on a petition illegitimately. According to Wilcox, the sheer amount of fraudulent ballots have overwhelmed election staff.
Secretary Of State Recommends AG Action
The questionable nature of many of the signatures caught the eye of Secretary of State Laurel Lee in December, who encouraged Attorney General Ashley Moody to act quickly without waiting for a criminal investigation. The office of the Secretary of State is reviewing the situation and considering imposing fines.
A letter written by Lee’s counsel pointed to hundreds of allegedly fraudulent ballots, compiled by over 10 individual signature-gatherers. The letter went on to recommend a portion of a state law that would permit the Attorney General to intervene with the alleged fraud prior to building a formal criminal case.
According to the law, the Secretary of State can refer a case to the Attorney General if the Secretary has a reasonable belief that a crime is being committed. In this case, the Attorney General can seek court intervention in the illegal activity.
Both Sides Fighting A Guerrilla War
However, opponents of the initiative – the Seminole Tribe, in particular – have not exactly played it by the book, either. In early December, a Politico report claimed that opponents of the initiative were engaging in nefarious behaviors intended to discourage signature-gatherers or otherwise derail their efforts, including intimidation and violence.
The signature-gatherers themselves have also been subject to a fair bit of scrutiny; in particular, opponents of the initiative have alleged that signature-gatherers are being paid by the signature – not the hour – in violation of provisions set forth in HB 5, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019. Seminole Tribe advocates have claimed this fact in court documents, including contracts and affidavits allegedly proving the misconduct.
While the rampant misconduct on both sides is being investigated, the initiative is quickly running out of time to compile the 891,589 signatures necessary to appear on the ballot. Heading into January, the Florida Voters In Charge initiative was short of the required amount by over 600,000 signatures with a February 1 deadline for all signatures to be submitted, verified, and counted.
Though it remains to be seen if any remedy will be issued based on the Seminole Tribe’s misconduct, the signature-gatherers’ own misconduct may prevent any meaningful decision from being rendered. As a result, Floridians may be without regulated, legal sports betting in 2022, barring a renegotiated Florida-Seminole Gaming Compact.
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News tags: Ashley Moody | Florida | Florida Voters In Charge | Florida-Seminole Gaming Compact | Las Vegas Sands | Laurel Lee | Marion County | Politico | Ron DeSantis | Seminole Tribe of Florida | Wesley Wilcox
Jerad has been a welcomed addition to the LegalSportsBetting.com writing team. Covering topics regarding the expansion of sports betting in the US, Jerad focuses on legislative efforts, bill signings and other methods for sports betting legalization. Finishing his education as a college baseball player, Jerad has first-hand knowledge of competitive sports, paired with years of personal sports betting as well. As a political science major at the University of Central Florida, Jerad covers the political, legal, and legislative aspects of sports gambling without any issues.