Voters in Florida will have the opportunity to take control of their state’s casino future next week during the November midterm elections, when they are asked whether or not they would like to have the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state.
The lucrative Florida gaming market brought in $546.6 million in 2017 from the state’s commercial pari-mutuel facilities or racinos, but saw slowed growth overall of just 0.1 percent. Outside of tribal gaming, Florida’s eight jai alai frontons, dog tracks, and harness tracks shelled out $191.3 million in gaming tax revenue.
If passed, Amendment 3, also known as the Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative, would take the power out of the hands of politicians and lobbyists, and give it to state residents. Currently, the Florida State Legislature can authorize gambling expansion.
The measure has been heavily backed by Disney, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which operates six casinos in the state. Disney, looking to protect it’s tourism stranglehold, has poured nearly $20 million into the campaign. The Seminoles, which recently reached a deal with Gov. Rick Scott to continue paying more than $300 million annually for exclusive rights to spread blackjack and other games, has contributed almost $17 million.
While the measure has the support of some Florida heavyweights, the opposition argues that it would make casino expansion incredibly difficult in the future, requiring 60 percent of state residents to sign off. Most of the state’s pari-mutuel facilities also oppose the measure, arguing that it essentially creates a monopoly for the Seminole Tribe.
A group known as Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3, has raised nearly $15 million to fight the measure, with funding coming from a variety of sources such as Tampa Bay Downs, Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, and MGM Resorts International.
The ballot measure also fails to have the support of the Poker Alliance.
“Amendment 3 is a pernicious and anti-competitive approach to limiting poker and other gaming in the state of Florida for decades to come,” said Mark Brenner, President of the Poker Alliance. “A few exceedingly well-financed special interests are driving a ballot initiative that is mislabeled and anti-consumer in the State of Florida and we are asking people to vote no on 3. We agree with those who have thoughtfully reviewed the issues and logically concluded that this is horrible policy and merely a play by two special interest organizations to protect their bottom lines.”
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) site FanDuel is also urging it’s Florida players to vote no, claiming that it’s passage would make “it more difficult to protect your right to play fantasy sports.”
Despite the late push against amendment 3, the measure has a pretty strong chance of passing. A late-May poll by the Florida Chamber of Commerce found that 61 percent of voters are projected to vote yes, with 23 percent opposed.
State voters will also decide the fate of Amendment 13, which would ban dog racing. The measure aims to phase out all greyhound racing and wagering by 2021.
Florida is currently one of just 10 states where dog racing is legal. While the measure is supported by a variety of animal rights associations, it is obviously not supported by many of the 11 pari-mutuel facilities that currently offer dog racing.
The most recent polling shows that 47 percent of voters support the measure, with 36 percent opposed.