Sportsbook in Las Vegas. Credit: Baishampayan Ghose, Wikipedia Commons
Sports-betting titans FanDuel and DraftKings poured $20 million in June into a campaign to legalize sports betting by amending the Florida Constitution in 2022, according to campaign finance records reported Monday afternoon by a political action committee.
The report was announced by Florida Education Champions, a sports-betting PAC waging the constitutional amendment campaign bankrolled by the sports-betting companies that would benefit from the amendment, if adopted by voters in 2022.
The international, multi-billion-dollar companies gave $10 million each to the effort to legalize sports betting statewide in Florida, according to the Florida Division of Elections.
PAC spokeswoman Christina Johnson told the Phoenix the committee filed its report with the Florida Division of Elections around 3:30 p.m., well before Monday’s midnight deadline.
“We are supporting a petition campaign in Florida seeking to add a question pertaining to sports betting to the Florida statewide ballot in 2022,” said Griffin Finan, vice president for government affairs at DraftKings, in a statement released through Florida Education Champions.
“As part of that effort, DraftKings provided Florida Education Champions with critical funding to ensure that Floridians have the opportunity to vote on a sports betting framework that would provide access to the best sports betting experience while increasing funding for Florida’s public education system.”
FanDuel offered supportive remarks in the same statement.
“It is our shared goal to have a safe, legal and regulated market for offering online sports betting in the Sunshine State. Once passed by Florida voters in November 2022, this initiative will ensure that the State of Florida shares in the sports wagering revenue that is currently going entirely to the offshore, illegal market,” said Cory Fox, vice president for government affairs at FanDuel.
Florida Education Champions is marketing its constitutional amendment drive by pledging to dedicate tax revenue from sports betting to education.
The campaign finance report also confirms that the PAC received the massive campaign donations just days before a new law set a cap on contributions at $3,000 per individual per campaign. Prior to July 1, contributions to political action committees were unlimited.
That law, passed by the Florida Legislature this spring, took effect July 1 but immediately ran into a legal challenge and is temporarily blocked. The PAC secured permission from the Florida Division of Elections to start collecting petition signatures on June 24. The donations from DraftKings arrived on June 23 and 24.
The PAC and the constitutional amendment campaign are separate from what happened in mid-May, when the Florida Legislature ratified a 30-year compact between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida to conduct expanded gambling in Florida, including sports betting statewide only under the auspices of the Seminole Tribe. That compact has not yet been approved by the federal government.
If the constitutional amendment effort succeeds, it would allow various large sports-betting platforms to get into that lucrative market in Florida, regardless of the compact between state government and the tribe.
Seminole Gaming spokesman Gary Bitner issued a statement denouncing the massive donations and the proposed constitutional amendment.
“This is millions of out-of-state corporate dollars to try and manipulate the people of Florida, who are smarter than that,” Bitner said. “They think they can buy their way into the state. Our team intends to use our Florida dollars to protect the interests of the people of Florida.”
Florida already has a constitutional amendment pertaining to gambling: Amendment 3 adopted in 2018, giving voters control over expanded gambling. That amendment requires any new gambling, such as sports betting statewide, to be subject to statewide voter approval.
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