Seminole Tribe Thanks Florida For Not Supporting Other Gambling Expansion Bids

Written By Brant James on March 15, 2022
Seminole Tribe Ad Thanks Floridians For Preserving Monopoly

The Seminole Tribe of Florida began airing a 30-second TV spot last week to thank residents for helping the proprietors of six state casinos maintain their virtual monopoly on gambling.

The ad, “Thank You,” began airing in major markets and on YouTube TV last week. It appears to be a victory lap over the failure of two out-of-state bids to open up what is seen as a lucrative Florida casino market of more than 21 million residents.

Seminoles weather Sands, DraftKings, FanDuel efforts to open lucrative Florida market

The first was a Las Vegas Sands-backed attempt – through the Florida Voters in Charge political action committee – to secure a ballot initiative to allow for an expansion of casino gambling in north Florida.

Sands had hoped to open a casino near Jacksonville but failed to gain the necessary amount of signatures by Feb. 1 in what became a bitter and litigious tussle between the PAC and Seminoles.

Florida Education Champions, funded almost entirely by DraftKings and FanDuel, similarly fell short in an effort to secure a ballot initiative to legalize sports betting statewide.

The Seminoles had negotiated to newly offer sports betting, craps and roulette as part of 2021 compact powered through by Gov. Ron DeSantis and approved by the state legislature.

Although the Department of the Interior allowed the deal to pass into law without rendering a judgment on its legality, a federal judge later voided it. Mobile sports betting in the state was shut down after a month after going live through the Hard Rock Digital app in November.

The app remains suspended, with one of its interesting footnotes being its part in a scandal that landed Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley on the NFL suspended list for at least the 2023 season.

Says the narrator in “Thank You”: For centuries, the Seminole Tribe has called Florida home. Today, they want to thank the people of Florida and all those who worked overtime to preserve the integrity of elections in our state. Despite spending over $100 million, the outside gaming petitions fell short, because the partnership between the Tribe and Floridians is stronger than ever.”

Aw, feels.

“Thank You” had had 1.5 million views from March 10-15.

Outsider figure to make more bids for Florida as sports betting iGaming remains in limbo

While the Seminoles can enjoy their lap, they must surely understand the “Unconquered” will be rechallenged.

With both sports betting and online casino still not yet legal in the state with the third-highest population, the market is just too tantalizing to be left to the Seminoles.

Said former 888 Senior Vice President of US, Yaniv Sherman, to PlayUSA:

“… everyone discounted the existing operators, mainly the big three’s interest in Florida and the fact that they wouldn’t just throw in the towel and skip that state. And they’ve deployed significant capital into it. And some of the activities that you’ve seen in the state, they weren’t going to take this laying down. I mean, there’s too much at stake.”

Florida Voters in Charge has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for a deadline extension, claiming inconsistency in state law language and how local elections supervisors handled their campaign.

In a recent earnings call, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins seemed to foreshadow that another bid to legalize sports betting in Florida could be successful with more time to campaign.

The company had gone so far in the most recent effort as to offer bonuses for requests for petitions. Barstool head Dave Portnoy had also attempted to whip his Florida followers on social media to join the effort.

Photo by Stephanie Scuderi
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Brant James

Brant James is a veteran journalist who has twice been recognized in the Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, most recently in 2020. He's covered motorsports, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball among a myriad of others beats and written enterprise and sports business for publications including USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com.

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