According to data from the Florida Division of Elections, Florida Education Champions’ online sports betting ballot initiative is still missing 658,062 verified signatures. The signatures are needed for the initiative to reach its goal: to allow Floridians to decide whether online sports betting should be legalized within the state.
Provided the ballot question would be brought to voters and obtain a majority of at least 60% of the “yes” votes during the 2022 election, online sports betting would become a reality in Florida in 2023.
Florida’s Sport Betting So Far: Short-Lived and Controversial
The ballot initiative is particularly important given the short existence of legal sports betting in the state. At the moment, sport betting activities are outlawed in Florida after DC District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled out a revised gaming compact between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe reached last November. The altered gaming agreement gave exclusive online and offline sports betting rights to the Seminoles and their six brick-and-mortar casinos.
Judge Friedrich decided that enabling sports bettors to place wagers anywhere in Florida would be a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The federal judge’s decision has since been appealed by the Seminoles.
Provided the ballot initiative would gather the necessary signatures to reach voters, it could help make online sports betting legal within the state for both qualified sportsbooks and state tribes with a current gaming compact. In order for the ballot question to reach Floridians, the initiative needs to receive a minimum of 8% of the total number of votes that have been cast during the last presidential election in 14 of the 27 congressional districts in Florida: 891,589.
Florida Education Champions Have Until February 1st to Verify the Rest of the Signatures
Florida Education Champions is the political action committee responsible for Initiative 21-13, which is the name of this sports betting initiative. They only have until February 1to verify the rest of the signatures needed for their initiative to reach its goal. Accordingly, election supervisors have less than 30 days to verify all signatures and submit them to the Florida Division of Elections.
Many signatures are still pending a very time-sensitive verification process by Florida’s 67 county election supervisors. However, Florida Education Champions’ spokesperson Christina Johnson has expressed the group’s confidence regarding the positive outcome of their efforts. Johnson also stated that the group has only had less than a third of the necessary number of signatures validated up until this point, with many more signatures awaiting verification from state officials.
However, time seems to be of the essence here. The same county election supervisors responsible for verifying the sports betting ballot initiative’s signatures are in charge of verifying signatures for 32 other active ballot initiatives prior to the same deadline set at February 1. Unavoidably, some concerns have been raised on whether all necessary signatures will be verified and counted on time.
What Happens If the Ballot Initiative Passes
Provided the right number of signatures is obtained, the initiative will reach the November ballot. If approved by voters, it will allow sports bettors to place their wagers at professional sports venues as well as pari-mutuel establishments. Plus, online sports betting would be approved all across Florida for qualified sportsbooks as well as Native American tribes with Floridian gaming compacts.
At the same time, Florida laws will allow betting revenues to be taxed. All taxes would reach a state educational trust fund, according to the Florida Education Champions’’ballot initiative.