Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative
The measure would provide voters with the "exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida." Amendment 3 would make the citizen initiative process "the exclusive method of authorizing casino gambling," meaning the Florida State Legislature would not be permitted to authorize casino gambling through statute or through referring a constitutional amendment to the ballot. In Florida, the number of signatures required for an initiative is equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the preceding presidential election. Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equal to 8 percent of the district-wide vote in at least half (14) of the state's 27 congressional districts must be collected.
The measure would consider card games, casino games, and slot machines to be casino gambling. The measure would not consider pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, dog racing, or jai alai exhibitions to be casino gambling. The measure would not impact casino gambling on Native American tribal lands established through state-tribe compacts.
The exact ballot summary language reads:
"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."
GAMBLING IN FLORIDA
Prior to 1931, gambling was outlawed in Florida. The Florida State Legislature passed a law to allow wagering on horseracing and dogracing, which Gov. Doyle Carlton (D) vetoed. Legislators voted to override the governor's veto, enacting the law on June 5, 1931. In 1935, the state legalized slot machines, but then repealed the law in 1937 following voters banning slot machines through ballot measures in multiple counties.
In 1987, the state launched the Florida State Lottery after voters approved an amendment the previous year. The vote was 63.57 percent to 36.43 percent.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida began operating a bingo hall in 1979. In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), allowing tribes to establish casino gambling on tribal land. The act permitted states to form compacts with tribes to regulate Class III gaming, but not to regulate Class I and Class II gaming. Class I and Class II gaming were defined to include traditional tribal gaming with minimal prizes, bingo, and card games. Class III was defined to include all other games not considered Class I or Class II, such as roulette, craps, keno, slot machines, parimutual wagering, and lotteries. In 1991, the Seminole Tribe sued Gov. Lawton Chiles (D), arguing that the state government failed to negotiate in good faith a compact to allow the tribe to establish a Class III gaming. The case was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in the state's favor, in 1996. In 2010, the Seminole Tribe negotiated a Class III gaming compact with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. The compact allowed the Seminole Tribe to operate blackjack at five facilities through 2015 and required the tribe to share revenue with the state. In 2015, Gov. Rick Scott (R) formed a new 20-year compact with the Seminole Tribe, which added craps and roulette to the agreement and gave the tribe the exclusive right to blackjack.
In 1978, an initiative, featured as Amendment 9, was on the ballot to authorize private casinos along the oceanfront in Dade and Broward counties. Voters rejected the measure, with 28.55 percent in favor and 71.45 percent opposed. The Let’s Help Florida Committee, which received funds from hotel companies, sponsored the ballot initiative. No Casinos, Inc., which has provided funds to the campaign supporting the Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative, was active in opposing Amendment 9 in 1978. Gov. Reuben Askew, a Democrat, founded the organization and opposed Amendment 9.
In 1986, Floridians addressed a second initiative, Amendment 2, to authorize casinos in counties where voters approved initiatives to allow casino gambling. Voters rejected the initiative, with 31.65 percent voting "yes" and 68.35 percent voting "no." Democratic Gov. Bob Graham opposed the initiative.
The status of casino gambling was featured on the ballot again in 1994. Voters rejected the initiative, Amendment 8, with 38.71 voting "yes" and 61.29 percent voting "no."
On November 2, 2004, 50.83 percent of statewide voters supported an initiative, Amendment 4, to allow voters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to authorize slot machines at parimutuel facilities, such as horse racing, greyhound racing, and jai alai exhibititions, that existed and were licensed during the two years prior. On May 18, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a local law allowing slot machines in Gadsden County, concluding that the state constitution only allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. contributed another $105,000 last month in its effort to pass a constitutional amendment that stymies gambling in Florida, bringing their total contributions to more than $4.6 million, the News Service of Florida reports.
Florida lawmakers will not return to Tallahassee this spring to deal with gaming issues.The decision not to bring the Legislature back into session came even though “significant progress” had been made on key issues that had been left on the table in the regular session.
The Sunshine State has long marketed itself as a welcoming slice of paradise to would-be tourists. However, historically, it’s been anything but for the expansion of non-tribal gaming interests.