This November, Florida voters have a constitutional amendment on the ballot–Amendment 3. The issue is “voter control of gambling in Florida.”
Supporters of the liberalization of gambling–and especially online gambling–may mistake this for a pro-gambling amendment. According to big operators like DraftKings and FanDuel, nothing could be further from the truth.
The sponsors behind the measure tell you all there is to know–Disney and the Seminole Tribe. Both have been longtime opponents of any expansion of gambling in Florida.
The Seminole Tribe hands over $250 million a year to the state government in return for what is almost a monopoly on gambling in the state.
Disney is opposed on principle, but additionally doesn’t want to see any more competition for its Disneyworld theme park.
Gaming companies oppose the amendment
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the “Voters In Charge” committee has spent over $31 million to promote the amendment. Committee Chair John Sowinski positioned the issue as a right for voters to control gambling.
“This comes down to, who do you trust: the voters or the politicians and the gambling lobbyists? Their burden is to suggest with a straight face that things are better in the hands of politicians and the lobbyists who contribute to them and who influence them.”
Opposition to the amendment is led by “Citizens for the Truth about Amendment 3” and “Vote No on 3.”
They are supported by the pari-mutuels and racinos together with international operators like DraftKings. According to them, supporting amendment three is going to hand control over to the Seminole Tribe.
The argument is that no further gambling expansion will occur if the people have to vote on it directly. That means that only the gambling under Seminole control will continue to be allowed.
At the moment, Florida pari-mutuel cardrooms host “designated player” card games. The Seminole Tribe objects to this, saying that the games breach their exclusive rights.
Jamie Shelton, president of pari-mutuel bestbet Jacksonville stated:
“Amendment 3 will clearly eliminate designated player games in cardrooms throughout the state of Florida. Period.”
A federal judge has ruled with the Seminoles, so depending on appeals, it is likely that these games will have to stop. And if amendment three passes, there will be no new legislation enacted to provide alternatives.
Amendment 3 could end hopes of legal sports betting
State Senate President Bill Galvano told The News Service of Florida that legal sports betting could create huge revenues. He believes that amendment 3 would kill all hope of sports betting legalization:
“The revenues are substantial. If Amendment 3 is passed, we’d lose that opportunity and we’re hamstrung.”
Florida has not had much success with legislation to expand gambling in recent years. In 2014, the legislature failed to pass Senate Bill 7052 which would have expanded legalized gambling.
The bill included text for:
- The creation of a gaming control board;
- Increased authority, control, and enforcement over gaming by the regulatory agency;
- Authorizing the governor to renegotiate the gaming compact with the Seminoles;
- Consolidating all forms of gaming other than the lottery into a single statutory chapter;
- Authorizing the possibility of two destination casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward County; and
- Reduced requirements for operating a poker room.
In 2018, Florida is looking at three pieces of legislation, all to do with daily fantasy sports (DFS):
- H223 House Bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur–defines DFS and proposes its removal from gambling statutes.
- S374 sponsored by Sen. Dana Young–a Senate version of H223 with some minor changes.
- S840 introduced by Sen. Travis Hutson–an omnibus bill to overhaul almost all of Florida’s gaming legislation.
None of these bills looks like it will proceed this year. If the constitutional amendment gets the 60 percent of votes it needs, they will probably not proceed at all.