Amendment 3 To Decide Who Can Approve Casinos In Florida

Oct 28, 2018

On Nov. 6, Florida voters will decide a crucial gambling fight.

Amendment 3, the Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative, would give voters the "exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling" in the state. That means that any new casino gambling in Florida -- which includes casino games, card games, and slot machines -- would require voter approval through a constitutional amendment.

Read more: How To Find Your Way Through 105 Possible Questions In South Florida Ballots

The Legislature now makes those decisions, either through laws or amendments.

Amendment 3 would not impact casino gambling on lands owned by Native American tribes. That means that tribes would not be required to pass a statewide referendum to expand gambling.

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In effect, the measure would further consolidate the Seminole Tribe’s dominance of casino gambling, reporter Arek Sarkissian said on The Florida Roundup on Friday. He covers gaming and other regulated industries for Politico Florida.

“This is a remarkable move by the Seminole tribe,” Sarkissian said. "This is their big win." 

Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have poured a combined $36 million into a campaign to support the amendment.

Opponents of the measure include “pari-mutuels,” which are the groups that run dog and horse racing, plus NFL teams and sports betting firms like FanDuel. They would like to see casino gambling expanded throughout the state.

Sports betting is currently a $250 million industry in Florida, though it's still unregulated.

The Seminole Tribe has a deep history when it comes to gaming.

Their signature location is a 30-story guitar-shaped casino tower in Hollywood, which began as a humble bingo hall in 1979. 

The Seminole Tribe now has exclusive rights to operate casinos with house-banked card games, such as blackjack.

“The tribe has done very well for themselves,” Sarkissian said. “They want to know their future's being protected. They want to know that pari-mutuels can’t grow anymore. Pari-mutuels are seeing decrease in revenues ... they want to be casinos too. There’s always been this fight that [pari-mutuels] want to grow, but the tribe doesn’t want it.”

In Florida, a constitutional amendment requires a 60 percent vote to be approved.

Sarkissian said polls show the amendment is likely to pass.