Residents of the Sunshine State will head to the polls soon. But, it is not for an election. It is not a gubernatorial race. Nor, is it a legislative race. It is to resolve an issue that has garnered much discussion. It is a vote on an amendment to the state constitution.
Amendment Number 3 has been pitched as a battle against two different areas in the state and competing interests. The gambling industry has been pumping money into the state for months. It hopes to try and sway public opinion of the proposed amendment.
Gambling in Florida
Gambling has taken an interesting turn in the Sunshine State. Horse racing has been legal in the state for decades. Florida bills itself as a horse state, especially in its northern part. Pari-mutuel betting has been legal since the 1930s. More and more people from the North began to migrate to the South at this time. Florida has many race tracks all over the state where gambling on horse racing is legal. Horse tracks want to have slot machines placed on their race tracks.
In addition, raffles and lotteries have also been legal in Florida for decades. The state has many bingo halls that benefit nonprofit charities, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The state participates in both state and multistate lotteries as well.
Casino gambling has been the subject of many discussions lately in the Sunshine State. Currently, the only land-based casinos allowed in the state are Indian casinos, which can operate because of federal law. State law prohibits gambling in casinos. The other casinos in Florida are on ships. The ships leave domestic waters for international waters, and that means people can play casino games.
Amendment 3, which residents will vote on in November, states citizens must approve any new gambling measure, especially casino gambling. This is in direct conflict with the state’s current law. This law states the Florida Legislature must decide when to grant casino licenses. It also decides who should receive them. The amendment is the result of grassroots lobbying by people who do not want any additional gaming in the state. This is especially the case with churches in the state, many of which believe that gambling is a sin.
Support and opposition
However, there are many opponents to the proposed gaming amendment, and they have been pouring money into defeating the amendment. Over four days in September, gambling interests paid $1.25 million into the “No on 3” measure, to defeat the bill. The Citizens for Truth About Amendment 3 is the committee leading the lobbying efforts against the bill. MGM Resorts International, Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, and the South Florida Racing Association have all contributed to the fund for the lobbying group. Formed in July, the committee has raised nearly $4 million to defeat the bill.
Interestingly, there are other gambling interests that support the bill. Both The Walt Disney Co. and the Seminole Tribe of Florida are in favor of the amendment. While at first glance, casinos would seem to be behind the increase in gaming, there are differing opinions. Disney does not want any more gaming because it believes there is enough gaming already. Disney actively promotes a family-friendly atmosphere. Gambling does not represent that, the company says. The Seminole Tribe, which owns the Hard Rock franchises, including restaurants and casinos, also does not want competition.
To change the constitution, at least 60 percent of the voters in Florida must approve the amendment. It would require voter approval for all casinos and casino-like games.
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