A newly-released Politico report claims that the Seminole Tribe of Florida is engaging in sabotage against multiple sports betting and casino gaming voter’s initiatives.

  • A report from Politico claims that the Seminole Tribe of Florida has been sabotaging signature-gathering efforts for multiple voter’s initiatives regarding sports betting and gaming.
  • According to sources familiar with the matter, the tribe has been providing financial incentives for signature-gatherers to quit their role and work for the tribe, among other tactics.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A new Politico report claims that the Seminole Tribe of Florida is sabotaging signature-gathering efforts for several voter’s initiatives that would open up the state to a fully legalized and regulated gambling industry. These notably include the Florida Sports Betting Initiative (backed by DraftKings and FanDuel) and the Florida Casino Gaming Expansion Initiative (backed by Las Vegas Sands and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians).

The report comes after the newly-updated Florida-Seminole Gaming Compact was nullified by District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich, who ruled it violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

The court has already denied the tribe’s motion for stay, though the appeals process could take a good deal of time to resolve fully.

How Is The Tribe Sabotaging These Initiatives?

One company that has been contracted to collect signatures for the Florida Casino Gaming Expansion Initiative, Dunton Consulting, told Politico that the firm has lost 32 signature-gatherers – more than half of their company – in the two days prior to the interview.

According to Rasheida Smith, CEO of Dunton Consulting, the Seminole Tribe has been offering upfront payment to employees who stop working for the firm; she also claims that employees are being offered a $250 bonus for each Dunton Consulting employee they can convince to quit and work for the tribe.

This is not the only form of sabotage the report claims the tribe is engaged in, however. The firm leading the signature-gathering effort for the Florida Sports Betting Initiative, Advanced Micro Targeting (AMT), claims the company’s canvassers are being harassed by Seminole employees.

According to Zachery Herrington, AMT’s Director of Florida Operations, the tribe is hiring unprofessional – and possibly dangerous – individuals.

“They will harass us for a spot,” Herrington told Politico. “They will do something like piss someone off at a DMV, or a courthouse, or a parking lot, then everyone gets kicked out. It’s designed to burn that turf for everyone.”

Despite these claims, a spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe said the tribe does not condone such tactics, and that they would fire any staff engaged in violent or aggressive behavior.

Why Would The Tribe Interfere With The Ballot Measures?

It makes sense that the Seminole Tribe is doing everything they can to ensure these initiatives do not make the ballot: the newly-nullified tribal gaming compact essentially granted the tribe a total monopoly on sports betting in Florida, and outside of that, the tribe currently holds a near-monopoly on casino gaming.

Both ballot initiatives would open up the gaming industry, with the Florida Sports Betting Initiative opening the state to both tribal and commercial legal sports betting operators, which would cost the tribe millions of dollars in revenue. The Casino Gaming Expansion Initiative would likely eat into the tribe’s casino gaming revenue, despite a provision requiring new casinos to be a certain distance from Seminole lands.

Further, it appears the Seminole Tribe’s sabotage has been effective thus far. Currently, the Florida Sports Betting Initiative has gathered 153,000 verified signatures – in order to appear on the 2022 ballot, the initiative must garner 900,000 verified signatures by February 1, 2022.

What Happens Now?

If the Florida Sports Betting Initiative does not make the 2022 ballot, it will likely be a long wait for Florida-based sportsbooks to be available. If the initiative fails to make the ballot in 2022, the signature-gathering process would be restarted for the 2024 elections. This means, barring a huge wave of signature support over the next two months, there will not be any commercial sportsbooks, online or otherwise, available in Florida until at least 2025.

It is also overwhelmingly likely that at least one entity sues the Seminole Tribe for their conduct. A successful suit could allow for an easier path to the ballot for the initiatives, though it is far from a guaranteed avenue.

If the ballot measure overcomes the odds and somehow passes, Floridians would still have to wait until 2023 for an official launch as outlined in the initiative.

The Seminole Tribe has made it abundantly clear that they plan to exercise every possible legal avenue to overturn the District Court’s ruling and re-establish their sports betting monopoly; however, the gears of justice turn slowly, and even if they eventually win an appeal, it will likely be a few years before the Hard Rock Sportsbook is available in Florida again.

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