Seminole Tribe Thanks Florida for Pushing Back Against Gaming Interests

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is running a television commercial campaign thanking voters in the Sunshine State for continuing to support the Native American group’s economic sovereignty.

A screengrab of a television commercial from the Seminole Tribe expressing its thanks to Floridians for not backing political efforts to welcome in outside gaming interests. The powerful tribe has maintained its monopoly on casino gambling, at least for now. (Image: The Seminole Compact)
A screengrab of a television commercial from the Seminole Tribe expressing its thanks to Floridians for not backing political efforts to welcome in outside gaming interests. The powerful tribe has maintained its monopoly on casino gambling, at least for now. (Image: The Seminole Compact)

In a spot titled simply “Thank You,” the Seminoles celebrate their longstanding partnership with the State of Florida. The tribe highlights unsuccessful recent efforts by outside gaming interests seeking entry into the state market.

Despite spending over $100 million, the outside gaming petitions fell short,” a narrator tells viewers. “Because the partnership between the Tribe and Floridians is stronger than ever. A message of gratitude.”

Florida Politics reports that the Seminole “Thank You” 30-second commercial has been running for the past two weeks in the Tallahassee capital area. The tribe has since been slowly deploying the spots across the state.

Lobbying Recap

2021 and early 2022 was a chaotic time in Florida regarding gaming. Las Vegas Sands, the world’s largest gaming firm in terms of casino revenue prior to the pandemic, lobbied heavily in Florida to the tune of $49.5 million.

Sands backed “Florida Voters in Charge,” a political action committee (PAC) that was working to convince state lawmakers to end the Seminoles’ monopoly on gambling. It wanted to allow a commercial casino in the northern part of the state. The committee failed to submit the needed number of voter signatures to the state prior to the February 1 deadline.

“Florida Voters in Charge” says it’s continuing to obtain signatures in an effort to achieve the required support in the future. But as their work continues, state officials and law enforcement agencies are investigating allegations of improper signature-gathering procedures.

While Sands campaigned for casinos, sports betting giants DraftKings and FanDuel lobbied for inclusion in Florida’s liberalization of sports gambling. Through a PAC called “Florida Education Champions,” the sportsbook and iGaming firms contributed more than $37 million to the initiative.

But “Florida Education Champions,” like “Florida Voters in Charge,” failed to acquire the required voter signatures. The PAC wanted to force a referendum to ask Floridians if they feel commercial sportsbooks should be allowed to compete against the Seminoles’ sportsbook operations.

Monopoly Maintained

The Seminole Tribe was handed both wins and losses amid it all. Though the tribe successfully defended its monopoly, the tribe’s PAC “Standing Up for Florida” spent $40 million running messages against the two commercial gaming initiatives.

The Seminoles were dealt a more consequential blow by a federal judge. US District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in November that the tribe’s 2021 Gambling Compact reached with Governor Ron DeSantis (R) was unlawful.

Two pari-mutuel venues — Magic City Casino and Bonita Springs Poker Room — filed a lawsuit against the state and Seminoles on grounds that allowing the tribe to accept online sports bets from players not physically located on the tribe’s sovereign land violates federal and state laws.

Friedrich’s order halted the Seminoles’ online sports betting operations. It also suspended other expanded gaming DeSantis and tribal leaders agreed to, such as roulette.

The state, tribe, and US Department of the Interior are continuing to appeal to the Friedrich order. In the meantime, the state and tribe have reverted back to the 2010 Gambling Compact.

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