Florida’s Legislative attempt at Legalized Sports Betting Violates State Constitution

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing issue of sports betting in Florida. There have been many looks at sports betting in Florida now that the Supreme Court has allowed it to be legal. Of course, each state would still need to enact legislation to allow for any sports betting in their jurisdiction. Florida never passed any sports betting legislation, and it would appear that unless the government ties something fairly underhanded, Amendment 3 to the Florida constitution would make it illegal to pass without the consent of the Florida Voters. Florida Politics online explains:

At issue is a bill Sen. Jeff Brandes filed Monday that would legalize sports betting in Florida and place regulatory and oversight authority within the Department of Lottery.

John Sowinski chaired Voters in Charge, the committee *behind the $45 million campaign to approve Amendment 3 last year that requires voter approval for casino gambling expansion in Florida. Voters overwhelmingly approved the Amendment with 71 percent voting in favor.

“Amendment three has one main thing. It says that if it’s casino gambling, it requires approval by citizen constitutional amendment,” Sowinski said. “The Legislature is not even allowed to propose it or put it on the ballot.” “It really could not be more crystal clear,” he added.

The issue at hand then, is the whether or not sports betting is part of the definition of casino gambling. John Sowinski says that answer is very easy to determine and one the courts have easy access to when looking to the question. Florida Politics continues:  

“Sorry — the bill is unconstitutional.When it comes to casino gambling — and yes, sports betting falls under that definition— the voters are in charge,” Sowinski wrote, referencing his committee’s name.

The opinion, released this April by *Paul* *Hawkes*, a former member of the First District Court of Appeals, makes an interesting point on voter intent.

“In 2018, a multi-million dollar campaign effort by sports gambling and pari-mutuel interests opposing Amendment 3 provided considerable accurate context about how Amendment 3 would effect sports gambling and player-designated games,” Hawkes wrote. “The intent of the voters was informed by numerous statements that create a record to which courts can turn to for an understanding of what voters understood the amendment to do.”

Simply put, voters understood a “yes” vote for Amendment 3 would affect sports betting, meaning their intent was for sports betting to be included in mandatory voter approval for gambling expansion. 

John Sowinski further argues, that if those like Brandes take the position that sports gambling can happen outside of a casino and thus its not explicitly a casino gambling issue, then the same can be said of slot machines, black jack and other table games that are offered outside of casinos as well. Even Brandes thinks those games would be considered casino gambling, so its hard to find room to say sports gambling should get a pass and somehow be seen as something other than casino gambling as well.

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