Efforts to ‘Sabotage’ Florida Gambling Measure Alleged

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Backers of a projected law amendment that could let casinos successful North Florida filed an exigency question precocious Thursday seeking an injunction against what they picture arsenic efforts to “sabotage” petition gathering.

The governmental committee Florida Voters successful Charge, which is chiefly financed by the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and different plaintiffs asked a Leon County circuit justice to contented a impermanent injunction.

That came a time aft they filed a suit alleging “tortious interference” related to efforts by the Seminole Tribe of Florida to forestall the projected law amendment from getting connected the November 2022 ballot.

The suit contends that radical and firms acting connected behalf of the people person interfered with petition gathering done harassment and “paying off” workers to halt collecting signatures for the projected amendment.

The suit and question accidental that the interference has jeopardized Florida Voters successful Charge’s efforts to taxable a required 891,589 valid petition signatures to the authorities by a Feb. 1 deadline.

“Absent injunctive alleviation from this court, an unlawful concerted effort by the defendants to undermine and obstruct Florida’s law amendment process volition beryllium successful, and defendants volition beryllium rewarded for flagrantly disregarding principles of instrumentality and communal decency,” Thursday’s question said.

But Rick Asnani, president of Cornerstone Solutions Florida, LLC, a steadfast that is 1 of the defendants successful the case, disputed the allegations.

“Anyone tin writer for thing and this is thing much than a nuisance suit filed by a rival designed to deflect blasted for a deficiency of results,” Asnani said successful a prepared connection Friday to The News Service of Florida.

“It seems similar a last-minute governmental tactic. Our squad members are trained to travel the rules.”

The suit is the latest improvement successful a bid of battles astir Florida’s lucrative gambling industry.

The people has agelong been a large subordinate successful the industry, and its relation grew successful May erstwhile lawmakers signed disconnected connected a multibillion-dollar woody that, successful part, allowed the Seminoles to power online sports betting successful the state.

Siding with 2 pari-mutuels that filed a ineligible challenge, a national justice past period struck down the deal, known arsenic a compact.

The people has filed an appeal.

Meanwhile, 2 governmental committees — some backed by tens of millions of dollars from gambling companies — are trying to get initiatives connected the 2022 ballot to grow gambling.

One of the proposals, led by the committee Florida Education Champions and backed by online platforms DraftKings and FanDuel, would legalize sports betting astatine nonrecreational sports venues, pari-mutuel facilities, and statewide via mobile applications.

Such casinos would not connection sports betting but would person games present barred astatine the existing facilities.

The people has opposed some measures and acknowledged this autumn that it had been paying consultants to circulate a petition asking voters to “support the Seminole compact and billions successful caller gross for the radical of Florida.”

The tribe-backed petition thrust was not intended to enactment a measurement connected the ballot and, arsenic a result, did not person to comply with rules governing citizens’ initiatives.

Backers of the projected gambling amendments maintained that the tribe’s efforts were making it harder to prosecute and clasp workers successful the cutthroat governmental ballot-initiative arena due to the fact that the Seminoles were capable to wage by the signature, which tin dramatically boost signature gatherers’ earnings. Groups starring citizens’ initiatives are not allowed to wage by the signature.

But the allegations successful the recently filed suit spell further than tribe-supported efforts to cod signatures for a rival petition.

The suit contends that Standing Up for Florida, a governmental committee chaired by Asnani that has received $10 cardinal from the tribe, and different defendants person taken a bid of actions to improperly effort to thwart petition gathering.

“Defendants’ improper and unlawful efforts to intimidate, harass and ‘pay off’ petition circulators employed by plaintiffs severely undermine plaintiffs’ capableness to get the required signatures by the February 1, 2022, deadline and jeopardizes the quality of plaintiffs to get the indispensable fig of signatures,” the question for a impermanent injunction said. “The harm suffered by plaintiffs arsenic a effect of defendants’ efforts cannot beryllium adequately compensated by wealth damages alone, and it is intolerable to quantify the damages suffered by plaintiffs — and the voters of Florida — arsenic a effect of their being improperly deprived of the close to behaviour a valid and lawful citizens’ inaugural process done defendants’ unlawful conduct.”

Leon County Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey had not scheduled a proceeding arsenic of mid-afternoon Friday, according to an online docket.

Also, the defendants successful the lawsuit — the Standing Up for Florida governmental committee, 3 firms, and 3 individuals — had not filed documents.

The plaintiffs successful the lawsuit are the Florida Voters successful Charge committee and 3 signature-gathering firms.

Florida Voters successful Charge indispensable taxable the astir 900,000 required signatures to region elections supervisors by Dec. 31, truthful they tin beryllium reviewed and processed earlier the Feb. 1 authorities deadline.

As of Friday afternoon, the authorities Division of Elections had received 202,342 valid petition signatures for the initiative, according to the agency’s website.

(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This worldly whitethorn not beryllium published, broadcast, rewritten, oregon redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam contributed to this report.)

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