Florida Gaming Advocates Work To Oppose Gambling Amendment
Opponents are lining up against a proposal that would effectively handicap Florida gambling expansion.
Two political committees have registered to lobby against a proposed state constitutional amendment that would take away power from the state legislature to regulate gambling. If passed in November, the referendum would require 60 percent approval from voters on subsequent ballot measures to approve any new gambling laws or expansions in Florida.
Known as Amendment 3 and billed by its supporters as a way to return more power to voters, the bill would in essence cut off any chance for regulated gambling growth in America’s third-most populated state. Advancing legislation on gambling has proven difficult for lawmakers in Tallahassee. A statewide three-fifths supermajority vote on anything in a state as diverse as Florida would be almost impossible.
Florida Gaming Amendment Has Powerful Backers
An unusual pair of some of the Sunshine State’s most powerful entities have contributed millions to support Amendment 3.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida is the driving force for gambling in the state. The Tribe has a de facto monopoly on all “Las Vegas-style” gaming in the state at its seven casinos spread across the state. Should Amendment 3 pass, it would all but cement this status and allow the Seminoles to continue running gaming operations in Florida without competition.
Disney is the other major backer. Owner of some of the state’s most well-known tourism destinations, Disney has worked to preserve what it considers as Florida’s “family friendly” image, something it believes would be tarnished by gambling expansion. It also doesn’t want the competition from other tourist attractions like casinos.
Combined, the two groups have contributed more than $10 million to Voters in Charge, the political committee behind the amendment.
Gaming Interests Form Opposition
The state’s existing gambling entities are now fighting back.
Last week a committee called Vote NO on 3 formed as a voice against the amendment. The group is led by Izzy Havenick, whose family runs Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Racing and Poker as well as Magic City Casino in Miami. The group was joined a few days later by Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3, which is led by Mardi Gras Casino and Race Track head Dan Adkins.
The two groups bring decades of lobbying and fundraising experience for Florida’s gaming interests and have raised thousands of dollars for the campaign. They still face an uphill climb against two of the most influential entities in Florida as well as grassroots groups that have spent years developing the ballot measure to limit gambling.
Ballot Measure Would Hurt Revenue
If passed, Amendment 3 would curtail an industry that has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars back to Floridians.
Along with more than $30 billion in contributions from the Florida Lottery to state schools, gaming interests in the Sunshine State have funneled billions into state coffers and created thousands of jobs. The Seminole Tribe alone contribute more than $250 million annually to the state as part of its exclusivity agreement.
To continue doing so, Florida gambling entities will need to continue to grow and adapt to increasing competition. That includes sports betting, a major potential growth area for states nationwide in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the federal ban. A requirement by state voters could further hinder Florida’s ability to legalize regulated sports gambling, putting it further behind a growing number of states already reaping millions of dollars from the industry.
Mississippi’s gulf coast, which competes with Florida’s panhandle for tourism dollars, is about to accept its first sports bet. Though other nearby states have been slower to embrace sports betting, the revenue opportunities may prove too much to pass up. If Florida fails to act, a state that prides itself on a vast array of tourism options may see painful drops in one of its most significant industries.
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