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Gaming industry investing millions for further Florida expansion

'It's going to be a battle for the soul of the state,' attorney says
Posted at 9:27 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 21:27:14-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Is Florida ready for another gaming expansion?

As federal regulators continue mulling the Seminole gaming compact, major companies are pouring millions into the state to sway voters for further change in the coming election.

Recent financial reports show money flowing into several political action committees ahead of 2022.

  • Las Vegas Sands is eyeing ballot measures to bring casinos to north Florida ($17 million).
  • FanDuel and DraftKings want mobile sports betting in the state without Seminole Tribe control ($20 million).
  • Magic City Casino owners are starting a political action committee, likely to protect parimutuels ($15 million).

Daniel Wallach is an attorney with Wallach Legal and a gaming expert who believed the coming months would equate to a more than $200 million fight.

"Florida, it's going to be a battle for the soul of the state on online sports betting," Wallach said. "It will be a fierce battle with a lot of money coming in from multiple sides."

Wallach said companies saw the recently ratified deal with the Seminole Tribe as a threat and felt compelled to act.

Guitar hotel illuminated at night at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood in January 2021
The guitar hotel at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is illuminated at night, Jan. 19, 2021, in Hollywood, Fla.

"The compact really became, in my view, a call to arms for all the other competitors and gaming companies to move forward with their own ballot initiatives or their own competing measures to level the playing field," he said.

The Seminole Tribe is also shoring up its defenses. Members invested $10 million PAC dollars to protect the still pending compact.

Federal regulators are reviewing the deal for 45 days after receiving it June 21. It received the Legislature's approval and governor's signature in May.

The agreement gives the state a large cut of revenue and the tribe exclusive rights for sports betting, plus options to grow its current operations.