Category Archives: Ballot Measure

Despite Supreme Court Ruling to Legalize State Sports Gambling, Florida doesn’t Seem Likely to See Such Gambling Expansion this Soon

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts by New Jersey to legalize sports betting, including the news that the Supreme Court may have just put forth the largest expansion of gambling policy ever by allowing all states to now legalize it. For months states have been gearing up for this possible scenario and the sports leagues have likewise been in communication with state legislatures to ensure they see a piece of the new gambling pie. However, Florida may be one of the few states that wont see an immediate rush to capitalize on this new gambling expansion frenzy. The Florida Times Union online explains: 

in Florida, two major obstacles — a ballot initiative and the need for a special legislative session — stand in the way of joining states such as Mississippi and Pennsylvania, which have cleared the decks to allow gamblers to bet on professional and collegiate sports teams as soon as the NFL season begins in the fall.

A proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot will allow Florida voters to decide if they want to control decisions about gambling, something now largely left up to the Legislature. If Amendment 3 passes, voters statewide would have to sign off on future gambling expansions.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who has been a lead negotiator on gambling issues for several years, said Monday the high court ruling won’t have an immediate impact on Florida, where sports betting is illegal.

Galvano and his House counterpart, Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, last month raised the possibility of a special session to address perpetually elusive gambling issues but abandoned the notion after Gov. Rick Scott secured a yearlong gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe. The agreement is focused on the tribe’s promise to continue making payments to the state in exchange for “exclusivity” over “banked” card games, such as blackjack. A special session in reaction to Monday’s court decision is unlikely, Galvano said.

John Sowinski, the chairman of Voters in Charge, a political committee behind the amendment, called the court ruling another reason to support the proposed constitutional amendment because the measure would give voters a say in gambling activities. “A lot of people in Florida would be relieved to know that, if we’re going to have sports gambling in this state, it’s going to happen by design of Florida voters, not by Tallahassee politicians and gambling lobbyists,” he said.

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UPDATE: Greyhound Industry Sues to Remove Dog Racing ‘Decoupling’ Ban from Florida Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to ban greyhound racing, but typically leave the gambling behind. This practice essentially creates mini-casinos and has been referred to as decoupling. Many are excited for the dog racing to come to an end, but most of those same proponents would like to see the gambling at those establishments end as well. An Amendment was proposed to do just that, but Florida State Sen. Tom Lee said he couldn’t get the amendment passed unless he allowed for the other forms of gambling to stay. Some who are opposed, such as former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, believe this is a legislative issue and shouldn’t be passed as a constitutional amendment. It’s a complicated issue that isn’t very clear to would be voters who might believe the ban will eliminate the dog racing and all other gambling at the tracks. This is part of the basis for a new lawsuit filed to stop the constitutional amendment form going to the ballot in Nov. The Ledger explains: 

The proposal, placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw greyhound racing at dog tracks by 2020, a process known as “decoupling.” Tracks would still be allowed to operate other, more lucrative gambling activities, such as slot machines and poker rooms.

But the Florida Greyhound Association and its president, breeder James Blanchard, maintain that the proposed ballot title and summary don’t fully inform voters about the impact of the amendment if approved. In a complaint filed Thursday in Leon County circuit court, lawyers for the plaintiffs raised what they deem numerous flaws in the amendment, which was backed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Massachusetts-based advocacy group GREY2K USA Worldwide.

Among the shortcomings alleged by the plaintiffs: The proposal does not advise voters that dog tracks still would be allowed to broadcast live greyhound races from other states. And the measure would only ban “commercial” dog racing, which means that kennel clubs would be allowed to continue dog competitions, the complaint says.

There is also concern that the law is entirely too broad as to how it attempts to regulate the dog racing industry. There is worry that it could impact animals in ways clearly not intended by the amendments authors. The Ledger continues: 

The lawsuit also alleges that the text of the proposal — which voters won’t see on the ballot — could have implications far beyond the greyhound-racing industry

The proposed amendment says the “humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” That language “might ultimately apply to animals other than dogs,” plaintiffs’ lawyers Jeff Kottkamp, a former lieuten.ant governor, and Paul Hawkes, a former appellate judge, wrote in the 17-page complaint.

“For example, would this statement, once adopted by voters who were not informed that it was contained in the amendment, be utilized in the future to limit horse racing? To limit the use of hunting dogs? A voter who favors ending dog racing might very well decline to pass an amendment with such a broadly-stated provision for fear that once adopted as status quo in connection to dog racing, such statement might be expanded to limit or prohibit other activities or livelihoods that involve other animals,” the lawyers wrote.

Most viewed the filing of the lawsuit as a natural progression of an industry attempting to save the racing. Others believe it’s the wrong approach to actually ending the greyhound racing industry and more definitive steps should be taken. Beyond the specifics, there are those that believe the lawsuit wont succeed and the issue will end up on the Nov Ballot as Amendment 13. 

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Seminole Deal Struck with Gov Scott, but Lawmakers still want a Special Gambling Session

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing negotiations between Florida State and the Seminole Tribe to reach a new gambling compact. The session ended with no formal deal in place, but it was expected the Seminoles would continue payments as normal. Gov Rick Scott worked directly with the Tribe after the session ended and has announced a formal agreement to continue payments through next year. An online source reports: 

On Wednesday, Florida Gov. *Rick Scott* announced that the state had extended its casino revenue sharing agreement with the Seminoles through May 2019. The agreement, which was signed in 2017, calls for the tribe to provide the state with around $300m per year in exchange for exclusive rights to certain gaming products.

Scott said the agreement “ensures the Tribe’s current commitment remains intact” but Scott stressed that Wednesday’s deal “does not make any changes to state gaming law or expand current gaming operations in Florida in any way.”

The 2017 agreement was itself a stopgap deal due to the inability of state legislators to approve a new gaming compact with the tribe, which operates the Hard Rock International family of casinos.

However, this action doesn’t appear to have stopped discussions by the legislature to convene a special session to address gambling. The Tampa Bay Times explains: 

The agreement, however, doesn’t look like it’s going to stop talk of a gaming special session sometime in the next month. House and Senate leaders face an expensive election cycle that could benefit from gaming industry contributions, and they are staring down a constitutional amendment that, if voters approve, could take away their control over gaming expansion in Florida.

“The discussions on the special session are continuing,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the incoming Senate president and the Senate’s key negotiator.

Galvano now says the reason for a special session has more to do with Amendment 3. The constitutional amendment is backed primarily by Disney Worldwide and as the support of the Seminole Tribe. If it gets the 60 percent of the vote needed to become law, legislators will have less influence over all gaming decisions, and the political fundraising that comes from the pari-mutuel industry could shrink.

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Florida Ends Session with No Gambling Bills Passed – Seminole Tribe Provided Assurances to Continue the Revenue Sharing Compact in the Interim

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion issues in Florida. Many issues were on the table this legislative session including a new gambling compact between the State and the Seminole Tribe, a greyhound racing ban, specific regulations on types of card games to be allowed, and the location and expiation of new slot machines in the states. The hope was to address these issues this legislative session, as it seems clear that a new amendment will pass a vote of the people to require all future gambling legislation to be approved by the voters. Most recently though, Casino Watch Focus reported that those goals were unlikely to be achieved as the focus of the Florida legislators would be shifting to focus on gun control legislation that was prompted after the Parkland school shooting. After those efforts were complete, gambling discussions were given some very last minute life, but as reported by The Palm Beach Post, those efforts have come to a close with no new gambling bills being passed:

Republican legislative leaders had resurrected the issue in the waning days of the session as they tried to strike a deal between the gambling-leery House and the Senate, which was willing to expand slot machines to counties where voters have approved the lucrative machines.

But after a day of horse-trading, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron declared the issue off the table. “Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” the leaders said in a statement Friday evening. “Gaming remains one of the most difficult issues we face as a Legislature. We are pleased with the progress made over the last week and know that our colleagues will continue to work on this important issue.”

Lawmakers were anxious to address the perennially elusive issue due to a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would give voters control of future gambling decisions, something now largely left up to the Legislature.

“We spent so much time, and rightfully so, on the school-safety legislation, and we found ourselves on a Friday, with a Sunday deadline if we had extended, and the tribe’s not up here,” Galvano said, referring to school-safety legislation stemming from the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Broward County high school.

One of the more pressing issues at hand, was the formation of a new gambling compact between the Florida and the Seminole Tribe. The legal issues at hand have stemmed from the exclusivity aspects of certain card games in exchange for income to the State. The Palm Beach Post continues:

Also, legislators wanted to ensure a steady stream of income from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The money could be in peril after a federal court ruling about controversial “designated player” games at pari-mutuel cardrooms throughout the state. Striking a new deal, called a compact, with the Seminoles, which would be part of any gambling legislation, has proved elusive for legislators.

One of the critical provisions of a 2010 deal between the state and tribe, giving the tribe “exclusivity” over banked card games, such as blackjack, expired in 2015. That spawned a protracted legal battle and previously futile attempts by lawmakers to seal a new agreement. The tribe pays more than $300 million a year under the banked-card games portion of the 2010 agreement.

But the legal battle focused heavily on what are known as “designated player games,” which are played at pari-mutuel facilities. After a federal judge sided with the tribe in a dispute over whether the lucrative designated-player games breached the Seminoles’ exclusivity over offering banked card games, the tribe agreed to continue making payments to the state, and gambling regulators promised to “aggressively enforce” the manner in which cardrooms conduct the designated player games.

While the tribe agreed to temporarily continue paying the state, some lawmakers are eager for the financial certainty a new compact would provide. But Galvano said he has spoken with a representative of the tribe, who assured him that the Seminoles intend to maintain the revenue-sharing agreement with the state. 

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‘Leave it Be: Until Amendment Three’ – Florida’s Voters in Charge Amendment Group Releases New TV Spot while it sees Overwhelming Local Support for the Ballot Measure

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progression of the Voters in Charge Amendment , with the most resent update reporting enough signatures had been collected to guarantee it would appear on the ballot. Since then, a very telling poll was released that showed overwhelming support for the amendment, now officially known as Amendment 3. Florida Politics reports: 

Lawmakers, take note: More than three-quarters of likely Florida voters favor a proposed state constitutional amendment “that would require voter approval to authorize casino gambling in the state,” according to poll results released Thursday.

“When initially asked about the amendment, 76 percent of respondents supported it, compared to 19 percent in opposition,” a press release said. “After hearing a balanced dose of arguments both for and against Amendment 3, support for the measure increased to 84 percent with only 14 percent opposed.”

“For nearly a century, it was voters—not politicians—who decided whether to authorize casino gambling in our state,” said John Sowinski, chairman of Voters In Charge, the group sponsoring the amendment. “Voters overwhelmingly support Amendment 3 because it will return control of casino gambling decisions back to the people, rather than gambling lobbyists and Tallahassee politicians.”

On the heals of such overwhelming support, Voters in Charge released their first television advertisement in support of Amendment 3 with the campaign slogan, Leave it Be: Until Amendment 3. The commercial can be viewed on YouTube HERE

 

 

 


UPDATE: Florida Voters in Charge Amendment Officially Reaches Ballot: Florida Voters have a chance to vote on the final say

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to pass the Voters in Charge Ballot Initiative. This ballot measure seeks to amend the constitution and require a final vote by the people before any gambling expansion can take place. This clearly provides a last line of defense for those Florida families must vulnerable to the socioeconomically damaging effects of gambling. The Sun Sentinel breaks down the particulars:

Voters in November might get the chance to make all future decisions about expanding gambling in Florida.

A proposed constitutional amendment says voters would need to approve any expansion of casino gambling with a 60 percent majority vote.

Voters in Charge, the group behind what’s called Amendment 3, announced Wednesday it had gained enough petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot — more than 800,000 in all. To pass, 60 percent of voters must approve the amendment.

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Florida Greyhound Ban Clears First Hurdle and will be presented to Committee: Decoupling Issue Remains Unclear, but more Support for a Ban Grows

Casino Watch Focus has reported that a new and unique avenue for banning greyhound races was being proposed by Sen. Tom Lee. As a member of the Constitutional Revision Committee, he planned to bring forward a bill that if approved, would go to state voters and seeks to ban greyhound racing. The General Provisions Committee is putting the resolution in front of the Executive Committee. The issue of decoupling is still vague, so its unclear if this would pave the way for stand alone poker rooms or if this would shut those down along with the dog racing. An online source reports:

As debate regarding the industry rages on, a proposed constitutional amendment could put the decision on the future of greyhound racing – and, by extension, live poker – in the hands of the voters of Florida.

The General Provisions Committee decided on Thursday to put the potential resolution in front of the entire Executive Committee. Called Proposal 67, the resolution would ban greyhound racing effective December 31, 2019. According to Saunders, the original plan was for the ban to be slowly phased in with an effective date of July 21, but the General Provisions Committee moved up the date. “We should do this as quickly as we feasibly can,” commission member Brecht Heuchan said to Saunders.

By state law, the only way that a greyhound track can offer a poker room is if they offer a significant racing schedule and pari-mutuel betting. There have been discussions for several years about separating the greyhound tracks and the poker rooms, but they have been unable to separate the two industries. If Proposal 67 were first to get on the ballot in 2018 and then be voted through by 60% of the citizenry of Florida, there would be significant issues because of the linkage.

The proposed constitutional amendment isn’t necessarily looking at gambling or poker being offered at the tracks. Many of the members of the constitutional committee are more concerned with the perceived issues that have plagued the racing industries for years. As Lee stated to Saunders, “As we’ve evolved, we’ve banned all sorts of activities that have been considered cruel to animals: bullfighting and cockfighting and all kinds of things. To me, this is just the next step on that plane of becoming more sensitive to this kind of inhumanity.”

More supporters looking to free dogs from the realities of this harmful environment have come forward. In an editorial sent out to multiple publications, including the Palm Beach Post Online:

Kate MacFall, the Florida State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, laid out a passionate plea to end greyhound racing, some of which is blow:

With 12 of the 18 dog tracks nationwide in our state, Florida has the most dog-racing operations in the U.S., thanks to our state government’s actions to prop up the industry. Greyhound racing is illegal in 40 states, and now is the time to add Florida to the list.

On average, a racing greyhound dies in Florida every three days. Many more are injured. Even if dogs don’t end up injured or dead, their lives are ones of abject misery.

Just this year, two more cases of dog “doping” have been added to the long list of violations. In one case, two trainers at a Jacksonville-area track were cited when dozens of greyhound blood tests came up positive for cocaine, with one greyhound testing positive six different times.

The total amount gambled on live racing at Florida dog tracks declined by 56 percent between 2006 and 2016. State tax revenue from dog racing also continues to drop, with revenue declining by 81 percent from 2006 to 2016. 

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