Everyone wants a piece of the multi-million-dollar sports betting industry in Florida, and some parties are willing to implement the Machiavelli approach – the end justifies the means. That’s what Las Vegas Sands claims that the Seminole Tribe is doing at the moment.
The Tribe is Accused of Many Illegalities
The groups that are aligned with Las Vegas Sands filed a lawsuit against the Seminole Tribe in which they accuse it of interfering with business relationships with the goal of blocking Las Vegas Sands from gathering 900,000 signatures, which are needed to include a measure on gaming expansion on the 2022 ballot. The tribe is also being blasted by groups who are completely opposing gambling in Florida.
Like Las Vegas Sands states, petition gatherers are being paid off by the tribe to break agreements that are supporting the ballot measure backed by Las Vegas Sands. In doing so, they are paying them off to join the tribe or not to work in Florida at all. Considering the fact that Las Vegas Sands has spent over $27 million on the drive, there’s a lot at stake here.
This lawsuit is six pages long and is penned by James A. McKee, a lawyer from Foley & Lardner. It includes tons of details as to how the tribe is planning to influence the outcome of Florida sports betting regulation in what it describes as an “illegal manner.” It states that the tribe has various intimidation and harassment campaigns and that its representatives are paying off petition circulators to make sure that they do not perform tasks for the plaintiffs.
Florida Voters in Charge and a couple of other petition-gathering firms are among the plaintiffs, and they accuse groups that are backed by the Seminole of harassment. Additionally, they accused the tribe of paying off people not to support the ballot measure, which would allow card rooms to be converted to casinos under the condition that they are located 130 miles from facilities owned by the tribe.
Furthermore, text messages between groups related to the tribe and private investigators that are working with Human Connections, which is a petition gathering firm in support of Las Vegas Sands, have been included, and, as the lawsuit states, they outline the illegal scheme of the tribe.
Detailed Allegations Are Also Included in the Lawsuit
To make things even worse, the lawsuit has specific details on how the tribe-related groups are trying to influence petition gatherers. Once specific case, in which a private investigator that is identified as “Circulator A” and is working for Human Connections was approached by Ginger Donat (the name is according to court documents) and was offered $2,000 if the investigator flipped sides. Donat would also benefit from the switch as she would bag $500.
The payments were delivered via Only Petition Works-ran office in Maitland. Donat also told Circulator A that petition gatherers that come from other states would receive $7,000 if they just leave Florida for six weeks and do not support the measure of Las Vegas Sands. The payments are allegedly divided into three parts – $2,000 at the start, $2,500 three weeks later after they agreed to work with the tribe, and then $2,500 more if they remain out of the state. A GPS tracker in the gaming portal would be proof that the petition gatherers indeed remained out of the state.
One message that was sent by Donat to the private investigator and others even reads that if any additional petition gatherers from other states, then they should contact her ASAP so that she can offer them sweet deals.
Cornerstone Solutions is at the Center of Events
As the lawsuit contends, the money is channeled via a company that is based in Palm Beach Country and is run by Rick Asnani – a long-time consultant for the tribe. The name of the consultant firm is Cornerstone Solutions. The company is allegedly focusing on petition-gatherers for a different gaming measure that is backed by other giants in the sports betting industry – DraftKings and FanDuel. With this measure, sports betting would be allowed to take place throughout Florida.
Petition gathering firms signed non-compete agreements with Cornerstone Solutions, which is something that POLITICO reported.
On Thursday, Asnani issued a statement to POLITICO in which he stated that lawsuits can be filed for pretty much anything and that this is nothing more than a “nuisance lawsuit” which is designed to produce a lack of results. The ballot measures by the tribe and the DraftKings and FanDuel have gathered $60 million so far.
Mark Jacoby, who runs the office in Maitland, pleaded guilty to reporting a fake address in California in order to be a signature gatherer in the state. Kara Owens was one of the long-time employees in the office, and she’s named as the case’s defendant. According to the lawsuit, Circulator A overheard Owens saying that she has been working for the organization of Jacoby for 17 years.
Moreover, Jacoby is helping the tribe come up with a plebiscite in which the tribe allegedly educates people, but opposers state that the sham petition drive’s purpose is to confuse people by making them think that they have signed a petition when in reality, they haven’t.
The lawsuit goes on to say that the tribe’s sham petition does not have a legitimate purpose because the defendants successfully paid of circulators on the number of signatures collected, which is unlawful. In the case of Circulator A, the investigator received $5 per signature, and even though a law, which states that petition gatherers need to be paid by the hour rather than per signature, was passed in 2019, it does to apply to the tribe as its effort is not an actual petition drive. Seminole is also being sued by pari-mutuels.