Florida Voters Gain Control of Casino Gambling Initiative

The future of Florida’s gambling industry may be put into the hands of the public following a constitutional amendment proposal, aimed at giving residents the right to approve or reject the expansion of casino gambling.

A total of 843,312 citizens signed the anti-gambling petition placing the Voter Control of Casino Gambling Initiative on November’s General Election ballot as Amendment 3.

Voter Control of Gambling Amendment

If the measure is passed into law, the people of Florida will have the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in their state. The amendment would prevent politicians from authorizing casino gambling, without first gaining voter approval through a statewide citizens’ initiative.  

The Amendment will apply to games typically found in casinos, such as casino gaming, card gaming, and slot machines, but will not affect mutuel betting on horse races, dog races, or any kind of gambling on Native American tribal lands. The amendment’s definition of gambling includes electronic and simulated gambling, internet sweepstakes and video lottery devices.

Current state of Gambling in Florida

Gambling, in all its forms, is regulated at state level. Currently, casino games, card games, and slot machines are prohibited across all non-tribal gambling facilities in all counties of Florida, except Miami-Dade and Broward where slot machines were legalized at mutuel betting facilities in 2004.

Tribal gambling on Native American reservations is legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 1988, meaning residents across Florida can enjoy legal gambling at tribal casinos, poker rooms, and bingo halls. In 2010, the Seminole Tribe of Florida made a large breakthrough when Governor Rick Scott signed a compact, which allowed mutuel betting facilities in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach to introduce new slot machines in casinos. The compact also permitted the Seminole Tribe to run blackjack tables in five racinos (combination of racetracks and casinos) throughout South Florida, provided revenue was shared with the state.

Three years later, in 2015 the Governor made a new 20-year agreement with the Seminole Tribe to add roulette and craps to the compact. Depending on whether the public votes to gain control of gambling legislation in the approaching ballot, we could see more brick-and-mortar casinos introduced across the Sunshine State. Gambling has been a popular hobby for decades and for a long-time regulation for the gambling industry in Florida appeared very unlikely

Beyond the Ballot

Amendment 3 is set to go before voters on November 6th, 2018 and, like any constitutional changes, will need a 60 percent approval rate to pass. With November quickly approaching, we expect the battles between the gambling industry and anti-gambling advocates to ramp up.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, who currently have a monopoly over Florida’s gambling industry through their seven full-fledged tribal casinos, and Disney Worldwide Services Inc are the key game players funding the initiative. According to the Florida Division of Elections, Disney has already invested over $9 million to support the changes, while the Seminoles have contributed $6.78 million to the “Yes” campaign.

Disney supports giving gambling control to the people in hopes they’ll refuse any form of expansion. The company believes casinos could change the face of the sunshine coast and jeopardize the family-friendly appeal of the Walt Disney World empire. The Seminoles have a vested interest in maintaining Florida’s status-quo on gambling to prevent competition and retain the profitability of their tribal casinos.

Both Disney and the Seminoles have good reason to believe that the people of Florida will reject the expansion of casino gambling. A 2017 independent survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research revealed that just 8 percent of Florida voters say they would not support the addition of any casino gambling.

While the proposed changes have been met with opposition, such as Senator Bill Ivano, there appear to be no large organizations donating to the “No” cause. However, this could be about to change, after the U.S Supreme Court ruled to lift the federal ban on sports betting in May. Each state now has the right to regulate sports gambling themselves, including sports betting found within casinos.

As a result, it’s likely various organization with an interest in capitalizing on the big business of sports betting, such as professional sports leagues, will begin splashing their cash on the opposing campaign to keep politicians in control of gambling legislation. If the state retains their authority, the expansion of both sports betting and casino gambling would likely occur at a much faster rate.

Submitting your vote

To vote in Florida, you must be a citizen of the United State, a resident of Florida and 18 years of age. You can register to vote online at the Florida Department of State website or download an online form to be printed and submitted via mail. Alternatively, you can retrieve a registration application form in person at your local election office, public assistance agency, public library, military recruitment office or independent living center. You can submit your vote any time between 7.00am and 7.00pm up until 29 days prior to the election on November 6th, 2018.

The Future of Florida’s Gambling Laws

Over the next six months, the people of Florida will take to the polls to decide whether the state will authorize the expansion of casino gambling. According to a poll taken in January by Hill Research Consultants, public support for the measure increased from 76% to 84% after respondents heard a balanced list of arguments both for and against the measure. If passed, the public will have full power to decide any future legislation surrounding casino gambling such as how many casinos will operate across the state and what types of gambling they will offer.

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