DraftKings and FanDuel Pump $20 Million Into Florida Sports-Betting Ballot Initiative

The Florida Division of Elections’ campaign finance database shows the two sports-betting companies contributed $10 million apiece in June to a political committee called Florida Education Champions.

Geoff Zochodne - Senior News Analyst at Covers.com
Geoff Zochodne • Senior News Analyst
Jul 13, 2021 • 10:26 ET • 3 min read
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DraftKings Inc. and FanDuel Group have pumped a combined $20 million into a campaign aimed at amending Florida’s constitution to allow legal sports betting much more broadly than the model already approved by Sunshine State lawmakers. 

The Florida Division of Elections’ campaign finance database shows the two sports-betting companies contributed $10 million apiece in June to a political committee called Florida Education Champions. 

Florida Education Champions is currently sponsoring a proposed ballot measure for 2022 that would ask voters to decide whether or not to add a new section to the state constitution for sports and event betting.

More specifically, the proposed constitutional amendment would allow such wagering “at professional sports venues and pari-mutuel facilities and statewide via online sports betting platforms by entities authorized to conduct online sports betting, and by Native American tribes with a Florida gaming compact,” according to a summary. 

The state legislature could tax betting revenues, the amendment says, and the money raised would go to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund of the Department of Education.

The amendment could also allow for more direct participation by companies than the plan for legal mobile and retail sports betting already approved by Florida’s legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Earlier this year, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and DeSantis agreed to a new gaming compact that included allowing the Seminole to offer sports betting in the state as of October 15. The tribe operates several casinos, such as the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, in addition to offering wagering elsewhere through a Hard Rock Sportsbook mobile app. 

However, under the model backed by the tribe and Florida lawmakers, mobile and retail sports betting would be controlled by the Seminole. While there could be participation from some pari-mutuels, such as racetracks, it is apparent that not everyone agrees with the coming arrangement.

“We are supporting a petition campaign in Florida seeking to add a question pertaining to sports betting to the Florida statewide ballot in 2022,” said Griffin Finan, vice president of government affairs at DraftKings, in a statement to Covers. “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.”

Big money, high stakes

The $20 million chipped in by Boston-based DraftKings and New York-headquartered FanDuel could be a sign of just how much the Florida market means to two of the biggest sports-betting companies in the country, and just how serious they are about improving their prospects in the state. 

What’s more is that the proposed ballot measure is not the only avenue through which the sports-betting model agreed upon by DeSantis and the Seminole is already being challenged. While the gaming compact still requires federal approval, a lawsuit has also been filed that specifically targets the sports-betting part of the deal.

In the meantime, putting the proposed amendment in front of Floridians in November 2022 will require gathering signatures equal to eight percent of the number of votes cast in the state for the last presidential election. Those signatures must also come from at least 14 of the state's 27 congressional districts.

Proposed amendments must receive 60 percent of the vote in their favor to pass once they do make it on the ballot. If voters approve the change, however, the state legislature would then have to implement their desires. 

“It is our shared goal to have a safe, legal and regulated market for offering online sports betting in the Sunshine State," said Cory Fox, vice president of government affairs at FanDuel, in a press release. "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." 

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