Las Vegas Sands Cancels Plan To Build New Casino Resort In Florida
April 4, 2022
Coming after a months-long legal battle and a lot of money, Las Vegas Sands is abandoning its plan to place a new casino resort in the state's northern section on the ballot this year.
According to the state Division of Elections website, Las Vegas Sands provided at least $73 million to Florida Voters in Charge, a political entity that supported the casino proposal, while the Seminoles spent at least $40 million to keep it off the November ballot.
The fight over the casino initiative pitted Las Vegas Sands Corp. against the Seminole Tribe of Florida, with allegations of death threats against workers gathering signatures for the ballot proposal, claims that supporters of the measure violated state law by paying workers off the signature, and disagreements over the tribe's efforts to bribe signature gatherers.
According to the state Division of Elections website, Las Vegas Sands gave at least $73 million to Florida Voters in Charge, a political entity that backed the casino proposal, while the Seminoles spent at least $40 million to keep it off the November ballot.
The Seminole Tribe, which operates under the Hard Rock name, dominates casino gaming in Florida. Except for Miami-Dade and Broward counties in the state's south, they govern everything.
The Sands' vision
The Sands-backed proposal was one of two gambling-related initiatives that did not receive enough signatures to appear on this year's ballot. The other proposition advocated for legalizing sports betting at professional sports stadiums, pari-mutuel institutions, and statewide via internet platforms.
Both bills were met with strong resistance by the Seminoles, but after the sports-betting campaign failed to gain traction late last year, the tribe focused on opposing the casino idea.
The project was created to allow North Florida's current pari-mutuel cardrooms to offer Las Vegas-style games. Presently, the Seminoles own and operate the state's only casino.
After failing to submit roughly 900,000 valid petition signatures by the Feb. 1 deadline, the Sands-backed organization filed a lawsuit, asking Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper to extend the deadline.
Cooper refused the motion last month, prompting the committee to file a notice of appeal with the 1st District Court of Appeal. Florida Voters in Charge abandoned the appeal last week and submitted a notice of voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit before Cooper on Friday.
“While the committee believes that it submitted more than the required number of voter signatures to make the 2022 ballot, the various obstacles the committee would have to overcome in order to vindicate those voters and make the ballot —the most recent of which is the passage of a law calling into question the availability of Supreme Court review of the ballot language — makes the achievement of that goal untenable,” said Sarah Bascom, referring to new election legislation that was enacted last month.
After the proposed constitutional amendment began to circulate in June, Florida Voters in Charge raced against the time. Because petitions are only valid for one election cycle, backers of the plan will have to start over if they want the idea to appear on the ballot in 2024.