Category Archives: Ballot Measure

Guest Article: CEO of Florida Chamber of Commers supports Yes on Amendment 3

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progression of Amendment 3 – Voter Control of Gambling in Florida.  Numerous sources have provided support for the amendment, but perhaps one of the most telling is the support it gets from the Florida Chamber of Commerce.  Below is the guest article by CEO Mark Wilson as published by The Florida Times Union:

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has long advocated for restraint in amending Florida’s Constitution. We believe our constitution should only be amended in rare and extraordinary circumstances.

Amendment 3, which would require voter approval of future gambling expansion, meets that threshold. Keep in mind, Florida is creating 1 out of 11 new jobs in America. We don’t need the casino industry, they need Florida.

Rather than introduce anything new, the amendment simply reinforces language already in the constitution — a provision that gives voters the final say on gambling decisions. Florida voters inserted that protection in 1968 and it’s important we don’t let politicians work around it.

Their reasons for doing so remain valid today. The widespread introduction of Las Vegas-style casinos in Florida brings dubious benefits and potentially serious consequences for our state. Any decision to go in this direction should be done so with due diligence, much caution and voter input.

Voters exercised such caution when considering five gambling referendums from 1978 to 2004. Three times they rejected large casino resorts in Florida. But they also approved the Florida Lottery and the limited introduction of slot machines in Broward and Miami-Dade pari-mutuels.

Since 2005, when Florida lawmakers began attempting to take over gambling decisions, the restraint of voters has been replaced by the politics of Tallahassee. The drumbeat for more and bigger casinos from the powerful gambling lobby has been loud and non-stop.

There is no end game here. No matter how many casinos might be approved, there always will be pressure for more. We have seen this in other states, where the gambling industry continues to push for expansion even in markets so glutted that existing casinos are losing business and even going bankrupt, sometimes at taxpayer expense.

Consider New Jersey. The Atlantic City casino market imploded in 2014 because of an over-saturated market, throwing thousands out of jobs and the city into an economic depression.

However, New Jersey requires voter approval of gambling expansion. And by an overwhelming margin, voters rejected new casinos.

Voters serve as a controlling mechanism on an industry that often has no self-control of its own. They slow down decision-making and ensure the pros and cons of casino expansion are fully and publicly vetted.

As the organization representing Florida businesses, the Florida Chamber is focused on making Florida more competitive, and the casino business model is anything but that. It is not one that grows the economic pie, but rather one that often cannibalizes existing economic activity.

Casinos represent the past, whereas Florida is moving into the future.

This year Florida’s GDP topped $1 trillion, which if we were a country would place us 17th in the world. Florida’s economy is the 20th most diversified economy in American and wages are increasing.

U.S. News & World Report ranked us first nationally in higher education and the University of Florida now ranks among the top 10 public universities.

Noted University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith describes Florida’s recovery from the Great Recession as “Phoenix-like.” One reason for that is Florida’s remarkably resilient tourism industry.

The Florida Chamber sees strong economic growth in Florida for the next 30 years.

All this is not by accident. It is due to a competitive business climate, smart policies and strong fiscal leadership.

The international casino conglomerates are desperate to get a toehold in Florida, not to add to what we have created but to feed off it.

Florida has come too far to go down this path without the people of Florida having a say. I’ll be voting yes on Amendment 3 because Florida’s future is worth protecting.

/Mark Wilson is CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Email:
mwilson@flchamber.com <mailto:mwilson@flchamber.com>./

 

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Who should vote No on Florida Amendment 3? Those who oppose radical expansion of gambling and Those who want to join over 90 Dog Adoptions Agencies because they believe it hurts the best interest of Greyhounds

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the dangerously deceptive Greyhound Amendment and with the election right around the corner, its critically important that voters see through the deception.  Whether you are a dog lover or one looking to curb excessive gambling,  you should vote No on Florida Amendment 3  There are two reasons for a No on 3 vote and they are intertwined. 

The first reason to vote No on 3 is because it will result in a radical expansion of gambling.  As previously noted, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers calls it outright “trickeration,” because the decoupling issue is largely misunderstood by the public at large.  Right now, the only way these tracks can offer slot machines and other forms of gambling is if they operate a full racetrack.  This bill doesn’t simply stop dog racing.  In fact, it doesn’t stop racing at all, as races from other states will still be simulcast to the tracks.  However, the need to house a full track and care for the greyhounds in the proper and well regulated manner the law provides for today will no longer become necessary to have that other gambling.  This effectively means that tracks can operate as freestanding mini casinos and the only requirement is they simulcast races from other states. 

 The reason we don’t see a massive expansion of these mini-casinos now, is because it takes very qualified operators to raise and care for the dogs and maintain the space necessary for such races to physically occur.  Absent the need for an actual track, its infinitely easier for a “greyhound” parlor to start up, because it can simply fill the building with slot machines and provide a few TVs for simulcast dog racing.  It has been claimed that this could lead to the largest expansion of gambling in Florida, and it’s easy to see why.  If you would ordinarily be opposed to gambling expansion, then don’t be deceived.  This bill won’t reduce gambling by stopping dog races as you think.  It will expand gambling in the worst ways.

 The second reason to vote No on 3 is because of the wellbeing of the dogs involved.  At face, the amendment seems to get rid of dog racing as previously discussed, but its clear racing will still happen.  In this scenario however, the amendment will have negative impacts on the dogs.  This is precisely why over 90 dog adoption agencies are voting No on 3.  The following article, Guest Opinion: A No on 3 Vote is a Yes to the Best Interest  of Greyhounds, comes from an avid dog lover and greyhound enthusiast.  It is incredibly informative and explains from a dog lover’s perspective why a voter would want to oppose this amendment:

As one who has adopted two retired racers, I was initially torn when I saw this amendment. A ban on racing sounds like a good thing on the surface to a dog-lover.

Shouldn’t all dogs be spoiled like mine with couches for beds and baskets of chew toys? My first clue that this might not be the case came in my email inbox. I received my usual newsletter from the Greyhound adoption agency that we had used. The email stated their opposition to the amendment.

Quite frankly, I was shocked that this volunteer run organization, who put our family through an extensive adoption process which included thorough home visits, vet background checks, multiple references and intense education, was now explaining how the claims made by the proponents of the deceptive ban and Amendment 13 were unsubstantiated. They, along with 90+ adoption agencies, are in opposition to the amendment and encourage a “NO” vote.

After receiving the email, I went on a quest myself to find out more facts….

She goes on to outline very key points that dog lovers will want to learn, including the fact that there are absolutely no provisions in the amendment for dealing with the 8,000 or more greyhounds that will be displaced when live racing is banned.  Please click on article to get all the information and share as much as possible.

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Former Florida House of Representatives Will Weatherford provides a politicians perspective for giving the power to the people with a Yes on Amendment 3 vote

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progression of Florida Amendment 3.  As the election approaches, its important to understand they wide array of support for Amendment 3.  Former Florida House of Representative Will Weatherford provided a much needed perspective in a guest article published by Florida Politics:

I am writing today to deal with unfinished business.

After spending eight years in the Florida Legislature, the last two serving as speaker of the House, I came to a conclusion about the future of casino gambling in Florida.

Some decisions are better put into the hands of the people.

So, in 2014, I proposed a constitutional amendment giving voters control over gambling. The idea never made it through the Legislature and on to the ballot, but the need for it has not diminished. So, Florida voters took matters into their own hands.

More than 1 million Floridians signed petitions to put Amendment 3 on the ballot. It puts the voters in charge of gambling decisions.

I would like to claim I was ahead of the curve in promoting this idea four years ago.

But back in 1968, my predecessors in the Florida Legislature had the same idea. They recognized that gambling wasn’t just another issue. The impact casinos could have on communities and the state warranted a higher authority than the Legislature to sign off on gambling expansion decisions.

And so they deferred to the people, putting a provision in the Florida Constitution that prohibited most forms of gambling, unless voters passed an amendment to allow them.

Five times, from 1978 to 2004, voters weighed in on gambling initiatives. They rejected three proposals to build Las Vegas-style casinos, but they also approved the Florida Lottery as well as slot machines in Broward and Miami-Dade pari-mutuels.

The conclusion might be voters were open-minded, yet understandably cautious.

If only Florida lawmakers left well enough alone. But instead, in more recent years, state legislators went in the opposite direction of their predecessors from 1968. Faced with conflicting legal opinions, the Legislature considered dozens of proposals that would greatly expand casino gambling in Florida without voter signoff.

From my personal experience, I can tell you this was a mistake. Casino interests have become one of the most powerful special interest groups in Tallahassee. The pressure they apply to the political process is nonstop. It is why, almost every legislative session, we see casino expansion on the agenda.

The Legislature only meets for 60 days every year, so there is much to do and little time to do it. The time, energy and resources spent on gambling bills have made them an ongoing diversion. It is frustrating to see the priorities of Floridians — such as jobs, education, health care and the environment — take a back seat to the priorities of casinos.

I have heard many times the call for Tallahassee to come up with a “comprehensive solution’’ to gambling — that we can allow a resort casino here or there, open the door to more slot machines outside South Florida and then call it a day. It is a mythical concept. No matter how many casinos are approved, no matter how many forms of gambling are allowed, the demand for more will come as quickly as the next legislative session. It is what I once called the drip, drip, drip of gambling expansion.

In watching this process play out, I began to appreciate the wisdom of our predecessors in 1968. Tallahassee is not the place for gambling decisions.

If nothing more, taking gambling off the political agenda will allow lawmakers to focus on the issues that matter most to their constituents.

Florida certainly wouldn’t be alone in allowing voter control over gambling. About half of the states have a similar requirement.

In the past few years, voters in states such as New York, New Jersey, Maine, Ohio and Maryland have weighed in on gambling expansion. If there is a trend in how they decide, it is that they weigh each proposal on its individual merits, approving some and rejecting others.

Consider New Jersey. In 1978, voters there became the first in the country to approve a major expansion of gambling, allowing casinos in Atlantic City. After multiple casinos there went bankrupt in 2014, gambling interests and their political supporters pushed for more casinos in northern New Jersey.

Almost 80 percent of voters rejected the idea, the most lopsided referendum result in the state’s history.

Voters know when to say when. They serve as a check and balance on the political process.

Voter control works. That is why I proposed restoring it in 2014 and why I support Amendment 3 now.

___

*Will Weatherford* served in the Florida House of Representatives from
2006-2014 and was House speaker from 2012-14.

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Yes on Amendment 3 – Voter Control of Gambling in Florida

Casino Watch Focus has reported the ongoing progression of Florida Amendment 3.  The Amendment found itself on the Nov ballot with easy and the polls have shown overwhelming support.  That said, it’s still important to clearly understand the three reasons why you should vote Yes on Amendment 3.  The Voters in Charge website provides great resources for those looking to dive deeper into the issue.  Luckily, it’s an extremely straight forward amendment that requires any gambling expansion decisions by the Florida legislator to be approved by voters before it can become law.  Voters in Charge provided three clear reasons why this is a very easy Yes vote:

  1. Amendment 3 empowers voters—not politicians and lobbyists.For decades, Florida voters decided casino gambling issues in the Sunshine State.  Then, politicians took that power for themselves.  Amendment 3 simply returns control of casino gambling issues to the voters.  That’s how it used to work in Florida—and how it still works in states across the country.  Most Americans already have the power to vote on casino gambling issues—you should, too!

  2. Amendment 3 reduces casino corruption.In the last decade, powerful casino gambling interests gave over $50 million to Florida politicians.  Today, they control many politicians—but they can’t control   Amendment 3 ends casino corruption by putting voters—not politicians and lobbyists—in charge of gambling decisions in Florida.

  3. Amendment 3 allows our elected officials to focus on more important issues.Unfortunately, casino interests have so much money and influence that they often “set the agenda” in Tallahassee.  Amendment 3 takes the power away from Tallahassee, so our elected officials can stop focusing on gambling and start working on issues that affect all of us, like: education, traffic, healthcare, jobs and the environment—just to name a few!

 

For more information, please watch the following brief video and visit the Voters in Charge website

 

 

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UPDATE: Florida Supreme Court Allows Deceptively Dangerous Greyhound Amendment to go on ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the greyhound amendment that seemingly ends all the dangers associated with greyhound racing. Unfortunately, the Florida amendment does no such thing and many argued the language in the amendment was deceptively dangerous and it would actually create mini-casinos all around the state, something known as decoupling. Right now, the dog racing is needed to allow the slot machines and other gambling at these facilities. For quite some time now, those machines have been the true bread and butter and the only thing really keeping the industry afloat. The amendment being proposed doesn’t end all of that harmful gambling, instead it decouples the dog racing meaning that so long as they still show dog racing from another venue on screen and take bets, they can continue to operate the mini-casinos. Most people who would support ending dog racing believe in ending the gambling all together, and it was argued in court that the amendment the Florida voters would vote on doesn’t make that clear. It was also pointed out that an issue like this belongs in the legislature and not as a constitutional amendment. The lower court called the amendment “out right trickeration,” but the Florida Supreme court ruled the language was sufficient to appear on the ballot, so now Florida voters must untangle this deception on their own. Florida Politics breaks down the ruling:

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday ordered a proposed *constitutional
amendment that would ban betting on live greyhound racing back on the ballot, reversing a lower-court judge. 

The court, in a 6-1 decision, overturned a previous order by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who ruled that Amendment 13’s ballot title and summary would mislead voters, calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’  ” Justice Peggy A. Quince dissented.

Jack Cory, spokesman and lobbyist for the *Florida Greyhound Association, which filed the legal challenge, said his group was “disappointed in the decision today… In a statement, Cory said the proposed constitutional change was made from “false and misleading information,” mentioning what he called the creation of “freestanding casinos” — a point the majority refuted, however. “This is the reason that you should not put issues like this into the Florida Constitution.”

[Justice] Quince said in a short dissent that “there is no reasonable way for a voter to know whether, by voting yes for this amendment, they are also voting to either suspend or expand” other gambling.

 

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Update: Florida Supreme Court to Decide if Deceptive Greyhound Amendment will make it on the Ballot

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the greyhound amendment that was initially headed to the November ballot in Florida. The amendment’s language is very confusing and doesn’t explain well enough what it really does. The issue isn’t as simple as banning greyhound racing. It’s a more complex issue known as decoupling, and it will effectively leave stand alone mini-casinos in the wake. Its been explained why that would be a far worse situation for Florida families. The Amendment was immediately challenged and the bench judge said a full trial wouldn’t be need, and it was a legal issue that could be ruled on quickly. As outlined by Florida PoliticsCircuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled against the Amendment:

The association challenged the amendment, saying its ballot title and summary would mislead voters. Circuit Judge *Karen* *Gievers* already has agreed in a harshly-worded ruling, striking the measure earlier this month and calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’ ”

She said Amendment 13’s title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective,” a legal standard developed by the Supreme Court to justify keeping proposed amendments off the ballot.

Despite this ruling, Attorney General Pam Bondi decided to appeal the case to the Florida Supreme Court. The Court heard arguments yesterday, but didn’t give much of an indication how they are leaning on the issue. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice, Major B. Harding, argued against it to the Court and explained the many issues wrong with the amendment, including the argument made during at the appellate level that outlined how this issue belongs in the legislature, not as a constitutional amendment which is reserved for fundamental values. Florida Politics continues:  

The Florida Supreme Court will now consider whether general election voters will get to see a constitutional amendment ending live greyhound racing. Lawyers for the state and the Florida Greyhound Association gave argument Wednesday before the state’s seven justices. As usual, the court offered no clue when it might rule.

Major B. Harding, a retired Supreme Court justice who represents the Greyhound Association, had previously argued the title and summary don’t disclose that “humane treatment of animals would become a fundamental value of the people of Florida.”

When Justice Peggy Quince suggested some voters may be interested in getting rid of dog racing but not in saying animal welfare is a “fundamental value,” [Deputy Solicitor General Jordan] Pratt said a title and summary don’t have to allude to the policy behind an amendment.

Harding later told the justices a vote for Amendment 13 would “constitutionally disconnect” dog racing from other gaming; slot machines in South Florida are provided for in another amendment.

He said the language also doesn’t make clear to voters that the amendment’s passage would create “freestanding casinos” because other gambling activities would not be affected. “Why would you include such a significant statement … and not disclose it?” Harding said. “It’s misleading and it’s inappropriate.”

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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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