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Florida Sports Betting Ballot Initiative Fails, So What’s Next?

Florida Sports Betting Ballot Initiative Fails, So What’s Next? article feature image

Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images. Pictured: The Florida State Capitol building.

Online sports betting will not be coming to Florida after a campaign to get the issue on the 2022 ballot fell short.

The ballot initiative needed to reach 891,589 signatures by Feb. 1 to be included on the 2022 ballot. However, with just 477,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon, the initiative was called off. DraftKings and FanDuel were major supporters of the campaign, contributing nearly $37 million combined.

There are still two paths to legal wagering in the next two years. The Seminole Tribe’s sports betting agreement with the state could be renegotiated to be less monopolistic or reinstated by an appeals court, or Florida’s state legislature could revisit legal wagering in the 2022 session, which ends on March 11.

But both are longshots. The third option is another ballot initiative for 2024.

“We are extremely encouraged by the level of support we saw from the more than one million Floridians who signed our petition and thank them for their efforts in wanting to bring safe and legal sports betting to Florida,” the campaign group said in a statement Friday. “While pursuing our mission to add sports betting to the ballot we ran into some serious challenges, but most of all the COVID surge decimated our operations and ability to collect in-person signatures.

“We will be considering all options in the months ahead to ensure that Floridians have the opportunity to bring safe and legal sports betting to the state, along with hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support public education.”

It’s the latest blow to a bill that has seen its ups and downs in recent months. The Hard Rock Sportsbook announced on Nov. 1 that it was launching online betting through its mobile app, which is also stationed in New Jersey and Iowa. It was the only book to operate at the time and didn’t require in-person sign ups.

That lasted just over a month.

On Dec. 4, the Hard Rock suspended betting on its app after a judge struck down a compact negotiated by the Seminole Tribe with the state earlier in 2021. The judge ruled that the compact forged between Florida and the Seminole Tribe was illegal.

The Seminole Tribe had reached an agreement with Gov. Ron DeSantis in April that gave them control over sports betting in the state, much to the dismay of DraftKings and FanDuel. The Seminoles agreed to pay $2.5 billion over five years back to the state in exchange for the monopoly.

Per Sports Handle, an appeal of that decision is pending in the U.S. Appeals Court in Washington D.C. A decision in that case could be up to a year away.

The next chance for a ballot measure for the initiative won’t be until 2024, and it’s unknown whether the same group will pursue another measure. Petition signatures are only valid for one election cycle in Florida.

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