Follow the money. It’s a useful phrase when you’re trying to figure out what the future of Florida sports betting looks like. And over the past month, the money has been rolling into sports betting PAC coffers in amounts that indicate there’s going to be a big push to expand sports betting beyond what’s detailed in Seminole Tribe of Florida’s compact with the state.
$20 million flows into education / sports betting PAC
If you ever wondered how much money it would take to launch a sports betting initiative in Florida, FanDuel and DraftKings gave you your answer just a few weeks ago. The two groups donated $10 million each to Florida Education Champions, a sports betting PAC that submitted an initiative to the Florida Division of Elections (FDOE) that would allow sports betting throughout the state.
The initiative, which could appear on the state’s November 2022 ballot, calls for sports betting run by operators with at least one year of experience in at least 10 states. It allows the Seminole tribe to operate without competitors for up to 20 months.
While the proposed amendment gives a nod to the Seminole tribe, it’s not enough of a nod to avoid pushback from the tribe. Hence, the $20 million donations; the sports betting PAC will likely use every last cent of that money to market the initiative to Florida voters.
Las Vegas sends $17 million to new PAC
Just a few days after DraftKings and FanDuel made their contributions, Las Vegas Sands Corp. sent $17 million to Florida Voters in Charge, a PAC based in Jacksonville.
FDOE records indicate the group is interested in initiatives and amendments, which likley means they’ll either submit their own initiative or they’ll support any marketing and advertising efforts to introduce sports betting to the state.
Regardless of the outcome, Florida residents will likely get a heavy dose of pro-sports-betting advertisements. The state now has nearly $40 million flowing in from out-of-state sources, presumably all to convince people that sports betting isn’t the pervasive evil that anti-gambling groups like Florida-based No Casinos make it out to be.
Will the Florida gaming compact survive?
As money flows into the state for sports betting PACs, the Seminole tribe is likely waiting nervously as their compact undergoes scrutiny from the Department of the Interior (DOI). This is a routine review period for the DOI, which analyzes compacts and decides if they comply with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the main piece of legislation that governs Indian gaming.
If you were to bet on whether the Florida compact will pass, you’d be in a tough spot. On one hand, the Seminole wouldn’t push forward with such a controversial compact unless they had a certain level of confidence in the DOI’s pending decision.
Yet multiple gaming-law experts have noted that past circuit and Supreme Court decisions are clear that IGRA doesn’t cover the Seminole deal. The compact calls for a hub-and-spoke model, which allows bets made off Seminole land to be routed to Seminole servers, which, the tribe argues, is legal under IGRA.
However, federal courtrooms disagree: A bet made off Indian land is a bet made off Indian land, no matter where the server is. Because of that, Seminole sports betting off Seminole land is subject to the state’s laws. And because sports betting isn’t legal in Florida, the sports betting parts of the compact would be invalid.
Knowing that the heavy investment in pro-sports-betting PACs in Florida makes it seem like FanDuel, DraftKings, and Las Vegas Sands are betting against the compact becoming a reality.