Posted on: February 9, 2022, 10:32h.
Last updated on: February 9, 2022, 01:58h.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has launched a full investigation into the inclusion of thousands of fake signatures on a pro-casino ballot campaign bankrolled by gaming giant LVS Corp.
Election supervisors counting the signatures last month reported an unprecedented amount of invalid submissions, including names of people who had died.
Numerous county supervisors contacted this week by Northwest Florida Daily News confirmed they had turned over suspicious petitions to the FDLE. One told the Fort Walton Beach-based newspaper she had discovered the signature of a woman who she used to see at Church. The woman had been dead five years and her house has been demolished, she said.
Another told The Miami Herald last month he had found his own name and that of his wife on one of the petitions.
High Stakes Campaign
LVS plowed an unprecedented $49.5 million into the political action committee spearheading the campaign, “Florida Voters in Charge” (FVC). It sought to ask voters to change the state constitution to allow North Florida card rooms to become casinos.
This could allow LVS to purchase a pari-mutuel card room in or around the Jacksonville area that could then be converted into a Las Vegas-style casino resort.
Despite the campaign’s financial clout and the reportedly fraudulent submissions, it failed to collect the necessary amount of signatures to get the question on the ballot.
FVC was opposed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which currently enjoys exclusivity on casino gaming in the state and wants it to stay that way. The tribe funneled millions into counterattacking the pro-casino drive.
FVC claimed the Seminoles used underhand tactics in an attempt to sabotage its campaign.
In a lawsuit filed in Leon County in December, FVC accused several businesses and political campaigns allegedly funded by the Seminoles of submitting a large number of invalid petitions to FVC.
FVC “discovered that the petition circulators at issue were previously employed by and are believed to continue to be employed by or are acting under the direction of the defendants,” reads the lawsuit.
It also accused the Seminoles of paying FVC signature gatherers to quit working on the campaign and even to leave the state.
The complaint was withdrawn late January when it was clear the campaign had failed.
Seminole Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner called the claims “ridiculous” and said they had “no basis in truth.”
Meanwhile, the Seminoles have accused FVC contractors of paying petitioners per signature, rather than by the hour, which is illegal in Florida.
FVC denies this.