Lawsuit filed as Seminole Tribe spends millions in ads discouraging gambling petition signing

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:11 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - The clock is ticking for proposed constitutional amendments to turn in enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

Nearly 900,000 valid petitions must be certified by February 1st, but a lawsuit by gambling interests alleges vendors for the Seminole Tribe are throwing roadblocks in their way.

The Seminole Tribe has been out front spending millions on TV ads airing across the state.

“Out of state gambling companies want us to sign petitions to turn Florida into another Las Vegas,” said an actor in one ad.

The ads urge voters not to sign gambling petitions.

A lawsuit filed last week alleges underhanded tactics are being used to thwart signature-gathering efforts that would add new casinos in the state, including paying petition firms not to work and offering thousands in incentive bonuses for petition gatherers to jump ship.

The practice is known as “blocking,” and those in the industry told us they have never seen such fierce efforts to keep another amendment off the ballot.

The Seminole Tribe has put just over $10 million into a political committee tied to the blocking efforts.

In May, during the special session to ratify the tribe’s gaming deal with the state, Senator Jeff Brandes asked point-blank if the tribe would engage in blocking.

“Is that something the Tribe would then fund against?” asked Senator Brandes.

“And the answer would be no,” responded Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen.

Based on that answer, Brandes is calling for a legislative investigation.

“He looked me in the eye and told me they would never do that. But I think that’s why there needs to be an investigation into what’s going on,” said Brandes.

We asked Brandes if he believed the tribe’s efforts were fair.

“Not if you are engaging in activities that are you’re actively trying to block the citizens of the state of Florida from making a free choice,” said Brandes.

The lawsuit asks for a speedy resolution, arguing without court intervention, their amendment won’t make it to the ballot.

So far, the effort to add new casinos has just over 205,000 verified petitions.

The effort needs just under 900,000.

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