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Proposed: Florida Constitutional Amendment 3 Voter Approval of Casino Gambling

Amendment 3: Voter Approval of Casino Gambling

Ballot summary: “This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.”

Florida voters could face twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments include complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and whether Florida should ban vaping in public places.

Some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters may be forced to vote for something they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court)

What it’s about?

Amendment 3 is not that complicated. It asks a simple yes or no question: Should the public, rather than state lawmakers, make the exclusive decision on whether to authorize expanded casino gambling in Florida?

The measure arrives at a time when the Florida Legislature has failed to decide on a major gambling pact in recent years. In 2010, the state signed a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida which requires the Tribe to pay the state money in exchange for exclusive rights to offer certain betting games.

Among the issues on which state lawmakers have been unable to come to terms is whether to authorize slot machines in eight counties: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington, where citizens in local referendums have already voted in favor of allowing the machines.

The amendment’s fiscal impact remains unclear.

Who’s for it?

The Florida League of Women Voters, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Who’s against it?

While not saying that they outright oppose the measure, some members of the Legislature who have been working on gambling legislation over the years have expressed concerns.

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano told the News Service of Florida earlier this year that, “It’s game over for the Legislature if that (constitutional) amendment gets on the ballot and passes. And at that point, we’ll just be spectators in the world of gaming, which will essentially be a monopoly for the Seminole Tribe.”

Some lobbyists and others in the gaming industry have spoken out against it, worried that if Amendment 3 passes gambling supporters like Disney and the Seminole Tribe would have to get  60 percent of the public to approve any expanded gambling in the future.

Other key points

So far just three groups have funded almost all of the budget for Voters in Charge, the advocacy group supporting the amendment: Disney ($14.6 million); The Seminole Tribe of Florida ($11.775 million); and No Casinos, Inc. ($81,000).

Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

This piece appeared in the Florida Phoenix and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

Graphic and layout by the Observer

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