Sports betting initiative staked with $20 million from DraftKings, FanDuel

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The political committee backing a proposed constitutional amendment to allow sports betting platforms to operate in the state raised $20 million in June, new finance reports show.

The committee, Florida Education Champions, was formed in early June and is something of a joint effort between DraftKings and FanDuel, the two biggest names in the sports betting business. When it launched, insiders said the companies staked the committee with a “significant amount” of cash.

“We are supporting a petition campaign in Florida seeking to add a question pertaining to sports betting to the Florida statewide ballot in 2022. As part of that effort, DraftKings provided Florida Education Champions with critical funding to ensure that Floridians have the opportunity to vote on a sports betting framework that would provide access to the best sports betting experience while increasing funding for Florida’s public education system,” said Griffin Finan, the vice president of government affairs at DraftKings.

FanDuel vice president of government affairs Cory Fox said: “It is our shared goal to have a safe, legal and regulated market for offering online sports betting in the Sunshine State. Once passed by Florida voters in November 2022, this initiative will ensure that the State of Florida shares in the sports wagering revenue that is currently going entirely to the offshore, illegal market.”

As foreshadowed, the committee’s first finance report listed a $10 million infusion from DraftKings and another $10 million from FanDuel.

The committee also spent about $160,000. The sheet shows $56,000 went to McLaughlin & Associates for research, $50,000 went to Gunster Yoakley & Stewart for legal services, $30,600 went to HubSpot for marketing software and website management, $13,252 headed to the Coates Law Firm, $5,070 went to Supernova Digital Communications for website work and $2,700 went to Gray Robinson for legal services.

Heading into July, the committee had about $19.84 million in the bank.

“Thank you to DraftKings and FanDuel for stepping up to the plate in an incredible way to kick off our amendment process that stands to help all Floridians. Our amendment will direct hundreds of millions of additional dollars toward Florida’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund and open up the market for online sports betting to competition,” committee chair David Johnson said.

The funding came in before the expected effective date of a new law that would have capped contributions to initiative-sponsoring committees at $3,000 until the amendment they back makes the ballot. However, a federal judge blocked it from going into effect, arguing that it directly conflicts with “[b]inding decisions from the United States Supreme Court.”

The amendment would legalize sports betting at stadiums and other sports venues as well as pari-mutuels statewide. It also specifically authorizes online sports betting “by entities authorized to conduct online sports betting, and by Native American tribes with a Florida Gaming Compact.” It sets 21 as the minimum age to place a bet.

The initiative would give the Legislature the authority to tax the sports betting industry, with all revenues heading to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, a pot of money mostly funded by the Florida Lottery that pays for educational programs such as Bright Futures scholarships.

The pitch was crafted shortly after lawmakers approved a new Gaming Compact granting the Seminole Tribe of Florida exclusive control of sports betting in the Sunshine State.

DraftKings and FanDuel already had a minor victory in the Gaming Compact and the various bills the Legislature approved in Special Session in May. They essentially legalized daily fantasy sports in Florida.

Previously, the legal status of daily fantasy sports was a gray area. That form of betting has been the foundation of the business that FanDuel, DraftKings, Bet MGM, and like companies established over recent years.

Yet the Gaming Compact also gave the Tribe exclusive rights to the potentially more lucrative and broader field of sports betting, which ranges from picking Super Bowl winners all the way down to wagers on whether the next play in a live game will be a pass or run.

The Seminole Tribe is opposed to the amendment, which it says is a “political Hail Mary from out-of-state corporations trying to interfere with the business of the people of Florida.”

Seminole Gaming spokesperson Gary Bitner doubled down on that take in a statement provided to Florida Politics on Monday evening.

“This is millions of out-of-state corporate dollars to try and manipulate the people of Florida, who are smarter than that. They think they can buy their way into the state. Our team intends to use our Florida dollars to protect the interests of the people of Florida,” he said.

Constitutional amendments require 891,589 signatures to make the ballot, a number pegged to 8% of turnout in the most recent presidential election. Proposed amendments must also hit signature thresholds in at least one half – or 14 – of the state’s congressional districts. If a proposed amendment makes the ballot, it must earn 60% support to pass.

Monday also saw a new political committee known as Florida Voters in Charge file a finance report listing a $17 million contribution from Las Vegas Sands. Information on what the committee aims to accomplish is scant, though Las Vegas Sands has tried for years to get authorization for a Vegas-style resort-casino in South Florida.

A third committee, Voters in Control, also appears to have a gaming bent. The PC’s June finance report had not been uploaded to the Florida Division of Elections as of Monday evening, but sources say it will show a significant contribution – likely seven or more figures – from the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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