Aug 20, 2021 - Sports

Sports betting giants' Florida education pitch

Sports betting laws by state
Reproduced from American Gaming Association; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

The country's top sports betting companies are trying to elbow their way into the market in Florida by couching their industry as a way to finance public education in the Sunshine State, records show.

Why it matters: As legalized sports gambling sweeps the nation with promises of increased tax revenue, betting operators have become intimately involved in state politics — and tailored strategies accordingly.

What's happening: FanDuel and DraftKings, market leaders in sports betting and daily fantasy sports, are running a political group in Florida pushing for a constitutional amendment that would give them access to America's third most populous state.

  • The group is called Florida Education Champions, and it proposes using tax revenue extracted from the industry to pad Florida's education trust fund. It's trying to get that measure on the ballot next year.
  • Florida Education Champions is almost entirely funded by FanDuel and DraftKings, which have each poured $10 million into the group.
  • The PAC has three board members, according to corporate records: the top government affairs execs at FanDuel and DraftKings and Orrick lobbyist Jeremy Kudon, who has spearheaded sports betting legalization efforts nationwide.

The state of play: Their proposal would undo a $2.5 billion deal struck by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe in April that would put the tribe in control of Florida's sports betting operation starting in October.

  • Florida is one of 10 states where sports betting is legal, but not yet operational. 22 states plus Washington, D.C. have fully-operational markets, while 18 states have not legalized the practice.
  • The U.S. Interior Department cleared the way for Seminole-led sports betting operations this month.

What they're saying: Florida Education Champions says it's working "to help increase education funding in Florida by hundreds of millions of dollars," in the words of one of its dozens of Facebook and Instagram ads.

  • "We remain steadfast in our efforts to establish a competitive online sports betting framework in the state, ensuring that the Seminole Tribe does not have an arbitrary monopoly on online gaming, while empowering players to choose from a variety of well-known, credible, and preferred platforms,” Christina Johnson, a spokesperson for the group, told Axios in an emailed statement.

Between the lines: Florida Education Champions has turned to prominent Tallahassee Republicans to try to get the measure on the 2022 ballot.

  • It's paid about $1.75 million to three firms affiliated with GOP consultants Randy Enwright and Jim Rimes for digital ads, direct mail and phone-banking, according to Florida campaign finance records.
  • Another $1.5 million went to Advanced Micro Targeting, a canvassing and signature-gathering firm.
  • Florida Education Champions has also enlisted a former Trump campaign polling firm.
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