Florida Legislature Approves Seminole Gambling Compact, Legalizing Mobile Sports Betting, and Many in Florida aren’t Happy

Casino Watch Focus has reported closely followed the recent advancement of the Seminole Gambling Compact and its inclusion of mobile sports betting.  The issue at stake is the legislator attempting to expand gamblining in violation of the Florida constitution, which requires a vote of the people to approve new gambling.  With the writing on the wall, many have made their positions known and now its all but official, as the Compact has passed the legislature and simply needs Gov. DeSantis’ signature, which will be forthcoming.  Not all believe it will pass, and many are speaking out.  The Orlando Sentinel’s Editorial Board outlined the opposition position:

The Florida Legislature just passed a gambling law they /know/ has a good chance of being struck down in court, or at least the sports betting part of the law that got the most attention.

You don’t have to believe us. Take it from state Rep. Randy Fine, who led the House Select Committee on Gaming and said this about sports betting after the bill passed: “Me personally, I don’t think it’s going to survive.”

The reason Fine made such an extraordinary concession on the House floor is because of the high likelihood that, under Florida’s constitution, sports betting needs to be approved by Florida’s voters, not elected legislators.

He didn’t say it, but there’s also a decent chance the bill’s legalization of craps and roulette games at Florida’s existing casinos also will be challenged in court and found unconstitutional. Same for the part that lays the groundwork for transferring gambling licenses from race tracks to other locations.

The problem in this case is that both sides seemed to ignore the clear language of the Florida Constitution, with some clearly just moving the bill along assuming that the courts would take care of the issue.  The lack of serious debate around the constitutionality of the issue has also brought the ire of those who believe the will of the constitution and the people shouldn’t be disregarded in such a cavalier manner.  The Editorial Board continues:

In 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment — by a remarkable 71.5% margin — that gave voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.” That means putting the question of additional gambling in front of the voters and letting /them/ say yes or no.

The language of that amendment clearly states the referendum requirement applies to what’s known as Class III gambling, and sports betting is defined under federal law as Class III gambling. So are craps and roulette. So, these things need voter approval to become part of Florida’s gambling landscape.

That single, central issue should have been a hotly debated point of this week’s three-day special session to approve a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe. In an astonishing display of bipartisan disregard for the will of Florida’s voters, the House passed gambling expansion Wednesday by an overwhelming vote of 97-17 with loads of Democrats jumping on the Republican-led bandwagon. Tuesday’s Senate vote was even more lopsided: 38-1. The lone no vote came from Pinellas County Republican Jeff Brandes.

Is it any wonder the public is so cynical about politics? Were voters really not clear in 2018 about what they wanted? What the governor and Legislature have done is cooked up a deal they know is constitutionally suspect, and now the courts will have to clean up the mess they’ve made.

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