Florida Senate President Favors Constitutional Amendment to Expand Vegas-style Gambling Casinos

Last year, Casino Watch Focus reported the attempt of the Genting Group to sidestep the legislature on the issue of expanded gambling though destination casinos by placing a ballot initiative before the voters in Florida. They hoped to either put pressure on the legislature to pass a proposal that they had more control over, or get their own proposal directly in front of the voters. The ballot initiative stalled and the legislature is working to decide how to expand gambling, but the Florida Senate President is backing the idea of a constitutional amendment that requires the vote of the people as well.  The Jacksonville Business Journal explains:

Senate President Don Gaetz said Thursday voters should probably weigh in on whether the state opens the door to Las Vegas-style casinos, posing another hurdle for out-of-state operators eager to start doing business in South Florida.

Gaetz’s comments make it more likely that voters will play a role in any gaming expansion next year.

House Speaker Will Weatherford  last week told The News Service of Florida he is “warming up to” a constitutional amendment that would require statewide voter approval for any future gambling expansion. But Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, was unclear about whether any changes approved by the Legislature next year would also have to get the voters’ blessing.

Such amendments have long been viewed as attempts to force policies when legislatures wont pass them on their own.  Legislatures typically have good reasons, and solid advice, counsel and evidence for making such decisions.  But during a ballot initiative, its too easy for one group to simply outspend its opponents on flashy messaging and persuasive tactics that mislead voters.  These constitutional amendments are typically seen in a negative light and Sen. Gaetz and others said last year that they wouldn’t resort to such attempts.  The Journal continues:

Lawmakers drew fire for placing 11 proposed constitutional amendments, many of them politically charged, on the 2012 ballot.

Gaetz said he and Weatherford last year pledged not to “litter up the constitution or the ballot with a bunch of crap, a bunch of issues de jour, a bunch of political stuff.”

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