The political action committee funded by the Seminole Tribe of Florida attempting to keep Las Vegas Sands Corp. from gaining a toe-hold in the state has filed a countersuit in Leon County alleging that their opponent is violating the state constitution with its signature campaign. Those signatures are crucial.
Florida Voters in Charge, whose $51 million war chest has been funded almost entirely by LVSC, needs nearly 900,000 verified signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to expand gambling in north Florida.
The move by the Seminoles-backed Standing Up for Florida is in response to an action filed by Florida Voters in Charge in December. Florida Voters in Charge claimed the Tribe-backed PAC attempted to “undermine” its signature campaign in the original suit.
Among the allegations levied against Standing Up for Florida was bribing Florida Voters in Charge pollsters not to collect signatures.
The proposed ballot measure would allow for expanded casino gaming in the state’s northern area, primarily near Jacksonville, as long as facilities were at least 130 miles from any current tribal gaming properties. This proposed expansion would presumably allow Sands to open a casino near Jacksonville and pari-mutuel in the area to increase their offerings.
Jacksonville is around 200 miles from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Tampa.
Battle over signatures first volley in possible casino expansion
FVC has acquired 458,608 of the 891,589 signatures needed – according to the Florida elections website – to put the question to voters.
Florida Voters in Charge claimed in its original suit against Standing Up for Florida that the Tribe-backed PAC had attempted to “sabotage” its grassroots signature-solicitation campaign. The suit claims its workers were coerced not to work. Or to work for them.
Currently, the Seminoles enjoy a monopoly on casino-style gambling in Florida by virtue of their compact with the state signed in 2016. The Tribe had gained the right to offer sports betting, craps, and roulette in a new deal with the state in 2021, but it was ruled unlawful and voided by federal courts.
Gambling regulation in Florida has reverted to the 2010 document and suspended sports betting in Florida after a month in operation.
Seminole-backed PAC calls Sands’ effort an affront to Florida constitution
Standing Up for Florida accused its rival of,
“Engaging in a widespread, election-law conspiracy in documents filed on Monday.”
The countersuit filed by attorney Bill Shepherd claims that “the Constitution of Florida is under attack,” citing,
“Illegal efforts by out-of-state funded professional petition gatherers hired by a Florida Political Committee called Florida Voters in Charge (“FVC-PAC”). Supported and funded. Almost exclusively, by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation (“Las Vegas Sands”) a foreign corporation. Are corrupting the petition process throughout Florida. By blatantly violating civil and criminal laws in an effort to secure illicit access to Florida’s ballots.”
The suit argues that the votes solicited by Florida Voters in Charge should be voided because of alleged violations of state law. Among the allegations are supposed payments to workers for each signature. The suit says this is “flatly illegal” under a 2019 law.
A similar suit by Standing Up For Florida has previously been dismissed in Palm Beach County. Shepherd did not immediately answer queries from PlayUSA about the case.
The countersuit asserts that Grassfire LLC committed numerous infractions, including forging the signature of state officials and illegally shredding documents.
As a result, Standing Up for Florida is seeking a motion for a temporary injunction to stop the state from counting the disputed signatures.