Following a couple of months of fierce legal battles, backers of a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to allow casino gambling in North Florida have withdrawn the legal action that alleged opponents tried to obstruct the process of petition gathering.
On January 31st, the legal representatives of Florida Voters in Charge, the political committee that has been one of the main supporters of the measure, and petition companies filed a notice in the circuit court of Leon County that they opted to drop the lawsuit. They did not reveal the reasons for the withdrawal of the legal action, but it came only a day before a deadline for petition signatures to be submitted to the Division of Elections in Florida.
As previously reported by CasinoGamesPro, the group Florida Voters in Charge has so far received approximately $50 million from Las Vegas Sands Corp. for making some efforts to encourage local voters to decide whether pari-mutuel operations in the north part of the state should be given the right to expand their operations with casino gambling. The proposal was originally aimed at the Jacksonville area.
However, on December 1st, 2021, Florida Voters in Charge and associated petition firms filed legal action claiming that another committee, people, and firms associated with the Seminole Tribe of Florida had pursued the failure of the aforementioned petition drive. The group also alleged that its opponents paid money to campaigners to stop gathering signatures in favor of the casino initiative.
Fraudulent Signature-Gathering Practices for Casino Gambling Ballot Initiative Used, Campaigners Claim
Only a few days after the lawsuit was filed, an amended version of the legal action was filed on December 7th. It alleged that the parties acting on behalf of the Seminole Tribe of Florida have been acting aggressively in concert in order to intimidate and harass people who are trying to do their jobs and get the signatures needed for the placement of a citizen initiative on the 2022 ballot in the state.
However, Standing Up for Florida, a committee supported by the Seminole Tribe, and its chairman Pradeep “Rick” Asnani, made some counterclaims, alleging that the signatures that Florida Voters in Charge gathered had not been obtained legally. Partly, they argued that the signature gatherers as part of the group’s initiative received their payment by the signature, which, if true, would violate state legislation and would encourage fraudulent practices of signature gathering.
For the time being, the Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and runs the only Las Vegas-style casinos on the territory of the state. There are no gambling venues of the tribe situated in the northern part of Florida. The legal action was dismissed without prejudice, which made it possible for Florida Voters in Charge to once again file a similar legal action in the future.
In order for the proposed constitutional amendment to get on the state’s ballot in November, Florida Voters in Charge was required to submit a total of 891,589 valid signatures to the state by the deadline on February 1st and get the Florida Supreme Court’s approval of the wording of the proposed ballot. According to the state Division of Elections, a total of 757,036 signatures were submitted for the initiative as of January 31st morning. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the wording of the ballot on March 8th in case it decides such a hearing is required.
A few days ago, the supporters of another gambling initiative seeking to make sports betting legal in the state, which was backed by DraftKings and FanDuel, two of the largest online gambling operators, shared that they would not be able to collect the required number of petition signatures in order to get the measure on the November ballot.