Published: November 4, 2018

Seminole Tribe Gives $1M More to Committee Urging Floridians to Approve Casino Ballot Question Next Week

The Seminole Tribe in Florida has given another $1 million to Voters in Charge, a committee that’s hoping voters will back a casino ballot referendum question next week during the midterm elections.

Come Tuesday, November 6, Floridians will be asked whether they want to strip state lawmakers of their powers to decide future gaming matters in the Sunshine State.

Amendment 3, titled the “Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative,” will inform voters that a “yes” vote “supports this amendment to provide voters, through citizen-initiated ballot measures, with the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in Florida.”

The powerful Seminole Tribe hopes it receives the required 60 percent support needed to amend the Florida Constitution. According to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections, the Native American group gave Voters in Charge another $1 million on October 31 to make sure the group was flush with cash during the final week before the election.

Disney, Seminoles Funding Push

Voters in Charge has raised $44.1 million since February 2017, and almost all of the financial contributions have come from either the Seminole Tribe or Disney. Committee finance documents show that the two groups are responsible for $44 million of the total.

Disney Worldwide Services, the lobbying arm of the mass media and entertainment empire, has given $19.65 million, while the Seminoles have donated $24.35 million.

Their reasons for supporting Amendment 3 are starkly different.

Disney wants to make sure casinos do not encroach on the Orlando area in hopes of maintaining the city’s family-friendly reputation where its massive theme parks and resorts are located. The Seminoles want to make sure commercial slot machines don’t expand throughout the state, and additionally want to make sure house-banked table games (blackjack) don’t expand to card clubs and parimutuel racetracks and jai alai facilities.

Disney and the tribe believe voters would be more apprehensive in approving gaming expansion from its current state than politicians who might be lobbied by outside influences.

Amendment Odds

In September, it seemed Amendment 3 was nearly a sure thing. A poll found that 71 percent of likely voters will say yes to the casino ballot question, or 11 percent more than required for its passage.

That’s when a group called Citizens for Truth About Amendment 3 sprung into action. The committee opposing the casino question raised over $9.9 million in the month of October, and went on a marketing frenzy.

A poll released in October found that Amendment 3 is now supported by just 54 percent of likely voters, which would be a win for the opposition.

Citizens for Truth has received $2.5 million from MGM Resorts, $200,000 from FanDuel, and millions of dollars from entities invested in Florida card clubs and horse and greyhound racetracks.

Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (D), who holds a 2.7-point lead according to Real Clear Politics over Republican Ron DeSantis, said he supports the amendment question and is “always in favor of voters having a say on momentous issues.” DeSantis has yet issued a view on the casino dilemma, but has taken $500,000 in campaign money from Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

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