Category Archives: Ballot Measure

With Talk of Possible Tribal Casino in Missouri’s Ozarks, Legislators Propose Commercial Casino

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many failed efforts to establish a new Missouri Casino in the Lake of the Ozarks.  The Missouri Constitution only allows for casinos that are along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  A change to the constitution would be required by a vote of the people to amend that condition.  However, there is the long path of a tribal casino that wouldn’t need to worry about the constitution, but it would have its own set of very lengthy barriers.  That, however, has not stopped the Osage from publicly discussing plans of a new casino, and as such, there are some that want to use that opportunity to push for a new commercially owned casino instead.  An online source explains:

Currently, the state constitution only permits gaming along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. But the Osage Nation has purchased land in Lake Ozark for the purpose of building a casino. The Nation is based in Oklahoma, where it owns and operates seven casinos. But its historical lands once encompassed most of what is now Missouri.

It wants the federal government to take the Lake Ozark land into trust, which partially removes it from the jurisdiction of the state. This would convert the land into the tribe’s sovereign reservation, making gaming possible there under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory  Act.

But a group of local investors have long held ambitions to build their own casino in the area. They’ve formed a political action committee, Osage River Gaming (ORG), which is backing the new bill, filed in the House by State Rep. Ron Hicks (R-St. Charles) earlier this month.

But if this is now a race to build the region’s first casino, it could be an incredibly slow one. Bills proposing gaming expansion are rarely fast-tracked through any state legislature. That means Hicks’ plan to get the question on the ballot in November of this year is ambitious, even if it is ultimately approved by his fellow lawmakers.

Meanwhile, land-in-trust applications are also painstakingly slow. Some can take years. A search of the Federal Register Tuesday did not show any pending applications by the Osage Nation for trust land in Missouri.

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Florida Initiative Petition signature deadline hits and Expanded Sports Betting and Casino Efforts Fail

Casino Watch Focus has long reported on the efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida through the Seminole Compact.  Those efforts failed when a Judge struck down the sports betting provisions as crafted and as such, companies like DraftKings and FanDuel invested unprecedented amounts of money in efforts to put the issue on the ballot via initiative petition. Despite the huge financial investment, the time has come and passed to have the required signatures required for getting the issue on the ballot this year.  The same holds true for a possible new Casino, which was also using the initiative petition as the means for expanded gambling. An online source reports:

Two ballot measures in Florida concerning sports betting (sponsored by Florida Education Champions) and additional casinos (sponsored by Florida Voters in Charge) failed to qualify for the 2022 ballot. Each initiative needed 891,589 signatures to be validated by county elections officials by Feb. 1. Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

From 2016 through 2020, the total cost of successful petition drives to qualify an initiative for the ballot in Florida ranged from $2.8 million to $8.8 million. In 2016, Florida required 683,149 valid signatures. In 2018 and 2020, the valid signature requirement was 766,200.

Florida Education Champions reported $37.2 million in contributions ($22.7 million from DraftKings and $14.48 million from FanDuel) and $36.01 million in expenditures. Florida Education Champions paid $23.8 million to Advanced Micro Targeting for petition gathering services.

Another committee, Florida Voters in Charge, sponsored an initiative concerning casino gaming expansion in Florida. The Division of Elections showed that county elections officials had validated 814,266 signatures submitted by the campaign as of 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 1. The campaign met the distribution requirement in 10 of the 27 congressional districts, short of the 14 districts needed. Florida Voters in Charge reported $51.6 million in contributions, mostly from Las Vegas Sands ($49.6 million), a casino and resort company based in Nevada. Florida Voters in Charge paid $44.9 million to Game Day Strategies for petition gathering and consulting. 

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Legalized Sports Betting in Florida via Initiative Petition takes turn as Fraudulent Signatures are being Alleged

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida.  Most recently, a gambling compact between Florida and the Seminoles was shut down by a Federal Judge over the provision to legalize sports betting.  Florida law requires any new gambling to be approved by the voters, and that compact side-stepped the will of the people.  The solution by those pushing for legalized sports betting then, is to bring the issue before the people via initiative petition.  To get on the ballot, a certain amount of signatures is required by a certain deadline and it was very clear that even after millions of dollars had been spent, those pushing the petitions were woefully short of the required signature.  So perhaps it’s not surprising that after an unexpected and sudden surge of signatures as the deadline neared, election supervisors would raise serious fraud concerns.  The Miami-Herald is reporting on what could be one of the largest election fraud attempts ever with these petitions:

Tallahassee Florida could be in the midst of one of the largest cases of election-related fraud in recent history. Across the state, elections supervisors say they have been sent thousands of fraudulent petition forms supporting a constitutional amendment to expand casino gaming in the state. Although the forms are supposed to reflect real Floridians voicing support for a change to the state’s Constitution, many include the names of dead people or the forged signatures of real voters.

The number of suspicious or hard-to-verify petitions has buried county elections supervisors and their staffs trying to sort through them. In one case, Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox found both his and his wife’s signatures forged on petition forms. 

Adding to the fraudulent claims is the fact that petition gathers are seemingly being paid per signature, which is illegal in Florida.  The Miami-Herald continues: 

Organizers for the Tribe have also alleged in court documents that organizers for Las Vegas Sands have been paying petition circulators based on the number of signatures they collect, which is a first-degree misdemeanor under state law punishable by up to a year in jail. They’ve produced contracts and affidavits from people who worked on the company’s petition drive.

One of those people signed an affidavit stating he was hired to gather signatures, and his contract stated he was paid $450,000 for every 25,000 petitions he submitted, up to $2.7 million. Another person, Larry Laws, was hired by a different company to produce signature-gatherers for the effort. His affidavit states that while the contracts stated that employees would be paid hourly, instead of per signature, petition circulators would also be paid a “bonus” of $2,500 for every 300 signatures, which was not in the contract. 

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Editorial: [Florida] Court ruling a wake-up call for better approach to gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on recent efforts to expand gambling through the Seminole gambling compact.  Most coverage has been on the widespread online sports gambling expansion, but it also allows for additional gambling expansion.  A recent court case invalidated the compact and the following guest editorial from the Palm Beach Post highlights lessons learned and the importance of following the established constitutional model for any gambling expansion:

On Nov. 22, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ordered the U.S. Department of Interior to throw out the 2021 gaming compact Gov. Ron DeSantis reached with the tribe. The judge apparently shared the misgivings of many of the compact’s critics, who saw the deal as a way around the Florida Constitution and federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, to expand gambling in Florida. The ruling not only halts online betting but blocks the tribe’s planned Hard Rock Casino expansions.

The judge made clear he didn’t buy the argument that the tribe could host online sports statewide as long as the servers taking the bets were located on tribal grounds. While recognizing the language of federal law, the judge also upheld the will of Florida voters who amended the state constitution to give them greater say over gambling expansion. 

The ruling puts the state back to square one. Instead of operating under a gaming compact that would give the state $2.5 billion over five years, Florida finds itself under a 20-year compact reached in 2010 when Charlie Crist was governor. The judge’s order doesn’t foreclose online sports betting in Florida but any new compact must limit online betting to Indian lands. The only way those bets can be expanded statewide is through a citizen’s initiative approved by Florida voters.

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$32 Million and Counting has been Dropped in Florida to Legalize Sports Betting via Initiative Petitions, but will they Succeed?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Florida.  The Seminole Nation and state of Florida reached a new gambling compact that provides exclusive rights to sports betting in exchange for annual cash payments to the state.  That compact has been hotly contested and seemingly violates federal and states laws for allowing sports betting online and not solely at Seminole casinos.  But even if those legal hurdles are worked out, that still leaves companies like Draft Kings and FanDuel from getting a piece of the sports betting pie.  Enter the initiative petition. If enough signatures can be gathered, the issue would go to the voters.  If the voters pass the petition, sports betting could be legalized all over the state.  So how much money has been spent on these petitions and are they getting the signatures they need?  Florida Politics breaks it down:

Two gambling drives each have spent $16 million; neither has more than 110K verified signatures. Gambling interests’ efforts to get Florida voters to consider expanding casino gambling and sports betting are raising the stakes — pouring another $22 million into their campaigns in October.

The cash infusion fuels frenetic petition drives by Florida Education Champions, a committee backed by the fantasy sports giants DraftKings and FanDuel seeking to expand sports betting in Florida; and by Florida Voters In Charge, a committee backed by Las Vegas Sands Corp. seeking to create opportunities for casinos in North Florida. Between them they’ve spent more than $32 million over four months.

For DraftKings, FanDuel, and Las Vegas Sands, the clock is ticking, fast, on their petition drives. The two petition drives each need 891,589 verified voters’ signatures by January. Neither is close, according to the latest updates posted by the Florida Secretary of State.

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Missouri Pro-Sports Teams look to Initiative Petitions to Legalize Sports Betting

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to legalize sports betting in Missouri.  Various attempts have been made over the years to pass a bill through the legislature, but all efforts have so far failed.  A recent plan was reported that would target the Missouri lottery as the sports gambling regulatory body, but nothing has been formally introduced to move forward.  Now, it would appear Missouri pro-sports teams have grown tired of the legislative process and have instead pushed forward what can only be described as a chaotic, unorganized, and desperate attempt to get some kind of sports betting legalized.  Literally anything would seem to work for them considering they filed 9 different initiative petitions in hopes that something will stick.  An online source explains: 

A Missouri lawyer last week filed nine ballot initiative petitions that would legalize sports betting with the secretary of state’s office. The proposals all call for the Missouri Gaming Commission to regulate wagering, for betting to be limited to professional sports teams only, and for tax revenue to be earmarked for education and road projects.

Beyond that, there are key differences, and, in total, the proposals are similar to some of the many sports betting bills that have been filed in the General Assembly over the last four years.

Sen. Denny Hoskins and Rep. Dan Shaul say they’ll try again in 2022 and have plans to pre-file bills next month. “I sense there’s a frustration at the lack of movement on the bills,” Shaul told Sports Handle in August.

Hoskins has his concerns about letting the state’s professional teams drive the process. “Obviously I am for sports betting,” he told the Post-Dispatch last week. “But I do have concerns when we put something in the Missouri Constitution without proper vetting. “There are a lot of details to sports betting, including tax rates, application fees, and annual administrative fees.”

Given there are nine different petitions, all with different approaches, its clear this method for a properly vetted and well regulated plan would be incredibly risky and likely to leave holes in consumer protections.  

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Guest Editorial: Gaming companies placed a $62 million bet against Florida voters. Don’t let them win

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts to expand gambling in Florida.  After a successful Amendment to the Florida Constitution, new gambling in the state must be approved by the voters.  So far, 4 different initiative potions dealing with gambling have been successfully funded to find their way on the ballot.  The Miami Herald Editorial Board has come out strongly in opposition and is warning Florida voters to avoid being deceived by all these gambling expansion measures.  Read below and for the full article, click HERE:

Consider yourself warned, Florida. The door has been flung wide open for more gambling and everyone is scrambling to get a piece of the action. How else to explain this astonishing piece of news: Gambling interests pumped a whopping $62 million in political contributions last month into groups and efforts that could influence the future of sports betting and casino gambling via ballot initiatives in 2022, according to a Miami Herald story.

With that kind of money on the table, the potential market in Florida must be huge. No doubt much of this interest springs from the Legislature’s easy approval this year of a $500 million gambling deal negotiated between the Gov. Ron Desantis and the Seminole Tribe.

Out-of-state, sports-gaming companiesFanDuel and DraftKings are each in for a cool $10 million, money they put into a political committee pushing to expand online sports betting across the state. They were iced out of the Seminole deal.

The Las Vegas Sands, a powerful new player, dropped $17 million into a political committee linked to two ballot issues for more casinos. Sources told the Herald that the company is interested in purchasing existing parimutuel licenses to open casinos in Jacksonville and other northern Florida spots.

Miami’s Magic City Casino anted up $15 million for its own political committee, official purpose unspecified. And the Seminole Tribe, winner of the last round of Gambling Gone Wild in this state, put $10 million into yet another political committee, mostly likely to defend its crown…

The timing of this slew of cash isn’t a coincidence. A new law was supposed to go into effect July 1 to limit contributions for signature-gathering — a requirement to get a proposed amendment on the ballot — to a paltry $3,000 per organization. But a lawsuit was filed, and a federal judge temporarily blocked the law just as it was about to go into effect…

It’s not completely clear yet which organization wants what next year. But the Miami Herald sketched it out this way:

FanDuel and DraftKings are looking for their own online sports betting deal to be approved by Florida voters. The Seminole Tribe wants to be ready to defend its 30-year gaming deal, which is still awaiting approval from the federal government. The Sands organization is eyeing casinos in northern Florida. And Magic City’s stake is designed to make sure parimutuels have a place at the table.

If that sounds like the state is being carved up like a roast at Sunday dinner, well, we agree…

But more gambling is not yet a done deal in this state. Getting a constitutional amendment onto the ballot in Florida isn’t easy. And any amendment must pass with at least 60 percent of the vote. No matter how much money the gambling companies throw at Florida, voters still have the final say.

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New Florida Seminole Gambling Compact Reached, but the Inclusion of Sports Betting is Sure to Elicit Legal Challenges

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the years long attempts and finalizing a new gambling agreement between Florida and the Seminole Nation.  It would appear the long awaited agreement has finally been reached, but it will still need to be ratified in a special legislative session before it becomes law.  The Orlando Fox Affiliate reports:

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe finalized a 30-year gambling agreement on Friday, inking a deal that would deliver at least $2.5 billion to Florida over the next five years in exchange for giving the tribe control over statewide sports betting. Tribal leaders, including Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., joined DeSantis in his Tallahassee office for a ceremonial signing of the deal, known as a “compact.”

“We truly believe that this is the best deal for everybody. It’s not in favor of the tribe or the state. It’s in favor of both parties, because this is a long-lasting team,” Osceola said. DeSantis noted Friday that the agreement, which requires approval by the Legislature, would allow the state to capitalize on online sport betting.

Although many are pleased to finally see a new compact agreement reached, those who oppose see the compact as a legislative overreach, as it expands gambling without a vote of the people. Florida Voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment that requires all gambling expansion in Florida to be approved by the voters.  Fox continues:   

But John Sowinski, the campaign manager of the political committee behind the amendment, said sports betting and several other provisions in the proposed compact, which would allow the Seminoles to add craps and roulette to their current casino operations, run afoul of the Constitution.

The amendment, which was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters, “requires voter approval for any new casino gambling,” Sowinski said Friday in a prepared statement.

“That includes sports gambling, player designated games, craps, roulette, moving slot machine permits, and any other form of Class III gambling,” he said, referring to federal law classifications of tribal gaming. “The proposed compact violates the letter and spirit of Amendment 3. We call on the governor and our legislators to honor the will of the people, who demanded that any new casino gambling authorization occur at the ballot box, not behind closed doors in Tallahassee.”

Gov. DeSantis said he is willing to vicariously defend the agreement, claiming that this gambling is not in Florida, as Amendment 3 covers, but the sovereign land of the Seminole Tribe.  The agreement also allows for mobile gambling, which would clearly take place by people off the reservation and on actual public land.  Gov. DeSantis claims that because the servers are on tribal land, there is no violation.  However, a similar case was heard in CA and it could hurt that very argument.  An online source explains:

They would also have to argue that statewide mobile betting, accessible to gamblers outside the Seminole reservations, does not constitute gambling expansion in the state because servers are located on Seminole land.

This potentially conflicts with a 2016 federal court ruling against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel When, in 2014, the Nation launched an online bingo site in California on the grounds that bets were being processed on its territory, they were swiftly sued by the State of California and the federal government. Ultimately, the court ruled “a bet must be legal both where it is initiated and where it is received.”

It may never come to that. While the bill has the backing it needs in the Senate, support is less assured in the House, which has become a graveyard for gambling expansion bills in recent years.

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Proposed Florida Legislation Seeks to Expand Gambling Through Various Decoupling Efforts

Casino Watch Focus has reported on various efforts to expand gambling in Florida through a process known as decoupling.  Currently most gambling in Florida is either through tribal casinos or allowed at facilities that complement live horse and dog racing.  Decoupling occurs when those two items no longer need be paired in order for the gambling to be legalized.  A facility could get a gambling permit for slot machines, but not need to have the dog or horse racing.  Florida voters passed an Amendment that made live greyhound racing illegal.  Those facilities have other gambling on-site and the issue of whether they can be decoupled has been contemplated.  A new set of bills have been introduced that seeks to decouple the greyhound industry but also expand gambling through decoupling other gambling activities as well.  Florida Politics explains:

The House Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would decouple casino gambling permits not just from dog racing tracks that are out of business but from jai alai frontons and harness racing tracks as well.

PCB 21-05, introduced by Republican Rep. Chris Latvala, is one of three gaming-related proposed committee bills introduced Wednesday in the Commerce Committee. Chair Rep. *Blaise Ingoglia* advised they were being floated only as just-in-case measures, should the Legislature take up gambling in this Session. Another bill, PCB 21-03, would create a Florida Gaming Control Commission and give it broad oversight and enforcement authority over Florida gaming. A third bill, PCB 21-04, would exempt some of the commission’s records from public records. 

Those two bills flew through the Commerce Committee with little discussion and no opposition. PCB 21-05 drew heated debate. It deals with the aftermath of Florida voter approval of a greyhound racing ban in 2018. Those dog tracks are closed or closing, but some still have game rooms. But Florida law says those game rooms must be coupled with pari-mutuel operations, and the racing is gone. The bill would decouple greyhound track companies’ casinos from the race tracks. Yet the bill extends the same decoupling to jai alai frontons, which nearly are gone in Florida, and to harness racing tracks, which supports the quarter horse community.

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Live Greyhound Racing Officially Comes to an End in Florida Virtually Eliminating the Gambling Sport throughout the Country

Casino Watch Focus has reported on Florida’s Amendment 13, which made live dog racing illegal in the state.  There was a transitional period to allow tracks time to transition their business model and find homes for all the greyhounds used in those races.  That time has come and Florida now joins the vast majority of the states that no longer allow greyhound racing.  Florida was such a large player, that the entire industry is seemingly on its way out.  NBC News reports:

The dog racing “mecca” of Florida ran its final greyhound contests Thursday night as the gambling mainstay strides closer to its potential demise across America.

The clock struck midnight when a speedy pooch named Bug Brush crossed the finish line to win the final race at Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach and brought a curtain on the sport in Florida.

A little more than 25 months ago, state voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 13, outlawing greyhound races, starting in 2021, and issuing what could amount to a national death sentence for the century-old U.S. sport.

With the state now out of the greyhound-running business, four tracks in three states — West Virginia, Arkansas and Iowa — are left still chasing rabbits.

When Amendment 13 passed in 2018, Florida had 11 of America’s 17 dog tracks, which were spread out across six states. Earlier this year, tracks in Texas and Alabama went out of business.

“Florida was the mecca (of dog racing), the base, the largest state with the most tracks,” Humane Society Florida Director Kate MacFall told NBC News recently, celebrating her state’s role in the sport’s decline. “Now this industry has withered.”

Those who have been long involved in the battle to end dog racing believe they still have unfinished business and are working to end the gambling practice in the few remaining legal jurisdictions.  NBC News continues:

With Florida’s ban now in place, there are laws on the books in 41 states against the sport, according to Christine Dorchak, co-founder of the anti-racing group GREY2K. Not yet satisfied with the sport’s near-comatose state, Dorchak said her group is pushing for federal legislation against greyhound racing that she insists has bi-partisan support.

Even without the work of animal activists like GREY2K, the Humane Society and the late singer Doris Day, dog racing has been losing at the bottom line with gamblers for years.

It’s believed Arkansas and Iowa could soon be done with the sport. Operators of Southland Casino Racing, in West Memphis, Arkansas, have already said they’ll stop running by Dec. 31 2022. A subsidy to the Iowa greyhound industry sunsets at the end of 2022, which could finish dog racing two years from now in the Hawkeye State. Dog racing’s demise comes as Americans — at least pre-coronavirus — gamble more than ever before.

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Missouri Casino Expansion via Lake of the Ozark Bill Dies – Initiative Petition to bypass the Legislators Seems Likely

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts at legalizing casinos near Osage Beach at the Lake of the Ozarks.  The Missouri constitution very clearly limits casino gambling to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, but attempts have been made for over a decade to expand gambling to that part of the state.  New attempts have been made, but those legislative efforts appear to have come to an end, leaving an initiative petition as the new driving effort.  A local new source reports:

Hopes for a casino at the Lake of the Ozarks have been dealt a serious blow. Missouri House Joint Resolution 87, which could have paved the way for a possible gambling boat on the Osage River below Bagnell Dam, has succumbed to the woes of COVID-19.

“It’s dead,” HJR 87 sponsor and proponent Rep. Rocky Miller said this week. “I would have liked for a possible casino to go through the existing proven structure, but I am fairly certain a Ballot Initiative Petition process will begin now.”

In this scenario, a ballot initiative would need to get the required number of signatures to be placed on the ballot, and then the ballot petition would need to win at the polls.  The last ballot initiative that passed was reportedly due, in large part, to the cap of 13 casinos in the state.  Its unclear if there is actual support to amend the constitution once again to allow 14, 15 or even 16 casinos in Missouri.  An online source explains:

Osage River Gambling had already been working on changing Missouri law to bring a casino (or three) to Lake of the Ozarks, via a Citizen’s Initiative Petition (CIP). A CIP would bypass the Missouri legislature and put a constitutional amendment straight to the voters… The CIP would also seek to add three new casino licenses to the current state maximum, bringing it up to 16.

It’s a plan built for high-rollers: the CIP will cost $1 million, the group expects. But they already have the money set aside. They have also polled the ballot language. “It passed easy: 67 percent,” Hand said. That was with the addition of the Osage River and no new licenses, though; investors expect a CIP’s passage to become tougher with the addition of new licenses. Gaming companies with existing Missouri casinos would oppose it.

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Court Rules Florida Greyhound Amendment doesn’t Violate 5th Amendment

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various efforts to shut down greyhound racing in Florida.  The direct issue of live dog racing was settled with voter support in favor of a constitutional ban on live races in Florida.  The facilities are still allowed to show simulcast races and they can still operate as mini casinos as the amendment didn’t shut down their existing slot machine offerings.  However, even with that much operating ability under the new law, facility owners challenged the law claiming it violated the 5th Amendment by taking away their property.  That case has now been dismissed by the Florida court.  An online source explains:

A federal judge in Florida has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the state’s greyhound racing ban on constitutional grounds. Chief US District Judge Mark Walker said in a 55-page ruling this week that the prohibition was a “legitimate exercise in Florida’s police power,” rejecting the plaintiffs’ arguments that the ban represented an illegal “taking of property” without just compensation.

Walker ruled that Florida had used its police powers to prevent “plaintiffs’ property from being used in a particular manner that the State has determined to be contrary to the health, morals, or safety of the community.”

The plaintiffs also argued the amendment had violated their equal protection rights because the State of Florida continued to permit wagering on horse racing. The lawsuit claimed dog racing had been singled out because it was “politically unpopular.” But the judge rejected the equal protection claim because Amendment 13 “does not involve suspect classes such as race, gender, or national origin.”

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Florida seeks dismissal of Greyhound Industry’s lawsuit aimed at Amendment 13

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the Florida greyhound landscape and the most recent voter vote to ban greyhound racing. Recently, a lawsuit was filed by the industry claiming the government was taking its property with the new law. This particular angle was likely the only one lawyers though they might have a reasonable chance of winning considering how overwhelming the vote was in favor of banning greyhound racing by the people. The fact that the people voted to stop this form of gambling, is exactly why Florida has asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuit. An online source explains:

Attorney General Ashley Moody, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration have asked a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit challenging a 2018 constitutional amendment that banned greyhound racing in Florida. Members of the greyhound industry alleged in the legal challenge that they were denied due process after voters approved the amendment.

But on Friday, state lawyers asked the federal court to dismiss the case, saying the plaintiffs “cannot sue the governor or member of his Cabinet over a proper vote taken by the people of Florida.” The court does not have the authority to grant an injunction because “there is in fact no government action to stop,” Moody’s lawyers argued.

In addition, the state argued that gambling on dog racing is a “privilege,” and not a property right, as the plaintiffs maintained. If the court does not dismiss the case, the state asked that it be moved from the Southern District of Florida to Tallahassee.

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Florida Greyhound Ban Amendment Lawsuit filed to Obtain Damages, but does the Lawsuit have Merit?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various development of Florida Amendment 13, which bans greyhound racing in the state. Voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of the ban, despite some potential issues with decoupling the gambling from the tracks, an issue known as decoupling. Voters also passed Amendment 3 though, a provision that prevents the legislature from authorizing new forms of gambling without state-wide voter approval. Several tracks have already stopped the live races, but still offer the gambling options they provided prior to the closure. For now, actually expansion of gambling through decoupling hasn’t been addressed, though it seems fairly clear that any expansion of the gambling that was previously allowed, should most certainly require voter approval. Regardless, the Amendment didn’t actually prevent all the gambling at the tracks that many who supported the proposal had hopped or assumed, as the decoupling issue was complicated and most simply wanted to see the live races stop. There is still a lot of gambling and a lot of money being made at various tracks. However, at least one track believes that Amendment 13 took away the value of their facility, and thus they are entitled to compensation. Recently, it was announced that a lawsuit could be filed in an effort to overturn Amendment 13. A lawsuit has now been filed, but this one only seeking compensation. The Orlando Sentinel reports: 

Christopher D’Arcy, owner of D’Arcy Kennel LLC in St. Petersburg, wants a judge to order the state to pay damages for the loss of value of his property, including racing dogs that the lawsuit said could previously be sold for up to $50,000.

Voters in November approved a constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 13, that will shut down Florida’s decades-old greyhound racing industry by a Dec. 31, 2020, deadline.

The lawsuit was announced Monday by the Florida Greyhound Association, an industry group that fought the constitutional amendment, which came after years of calls by animal-rights groups to ban dog racing in the state. The measure easily passed, with support of 69 percent of the voters.

The Florida Greyhound Association went to court last year in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the constitutional amendment off the ballot. The new lawsuit does not try to overturn the amendment but seeks damages under the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. It makes a claim for what is known as “inverse condemnation” and contends that the amendment was a “taking” of property without compensation.

The main question is whether or not this claim has merit. Clearly these tracks can still offer gambling, which in and of itself provides value to the owners. The Orlando Sentinel continues:

Christine Dorchak, president and general counsel of GREY2K USA, disputed the arguments raised in the D’Arcy lawsuit and said the kennel owner is not owed compensation. “No property is taken under Amendment 13, and this humane law simply phases out an industry that is cruel and inhumane,” Dorchak said in a emailed statement. “Unlike the pig farmer who could no longer use his gestation crates at all, the track land and the dogs themselves retain value.” While greyhound tracks face a Dec. 31, 2020, deadline for ending racing, they were able to stop racing at the beginning of this year. In the past, tracks had been required to run races to offer more-lucrative types of gambling, such as card rooms.

However, the issue of whether or not property has actually lost value can be addressed outside of the decoupling purview, and there are those that don’t think the case has any legitimate legs to stand on given the gambling nature of dog racing in general. Florida Politics online reports: 

One of the lead backers of last year’s successful state constitutional amendment to ban greyhound racing has told legislative leaders that a lawsuit against the measure is “dubious” and “frivolous.”

Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA Worldwide, which aims to permanently end dog racing, sent a letter Monday to state Rep. *David Santiago*, chair of the House Gaming Control Subcommittee, and state Sen. *Wilton Simpson*, who chairs the Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry and Technology, which oversees gambling issues. “We believe this lawsuit is without merit and will be rejected,” Theil wrote. “As you know, no property is taken under Amendment 13, and (it) simply phases out an activity that voters have found to be cruel and inhumane.”

A similar claim was brought in Massachusetts in 20111, he added, resulting in a ruling against a kennel owner. A judge found that the owner “could have no reasonable investment-backed expectations in its greyhound kennel business” because “it operates in the highly-regulated gaming industry.” “Rather than to obstruct adoption efforts and file frivolous lawsuits, the industry would be better served working to ensure there is a successful transition for every track worker and every greyhound,” Theil told the lawmakers.

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Greyhound Industry Seeks to Overturn Florida’s Amendment 13 that Bans Live Races

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the recent attempts to ban dog racing in Florida. Voters passed Amendment 13, which banned live greyhound races. The issue was anything but straight forward, as many voters wanted to eliminate the gambling that goes along with dog racing as well. However, the bill simply decoupled the live racing requirement from the gambling that took place at the tracks. The bill allows gambling on races that are simulcast and leaves open the possibility for existing slot machine gambling to be allowed even though the track doesn’t support live racing. However, Florida voters also passed Amendment 3, which requires voter approval for any expansion of gambling. This would seemingly mean new “tracks” couldn’t go up that are essentially just mini slot machine casinos that offer simulcast dog races. The true decoupling implications and the actual landscape of how slot machine gambling will expand as a result is uncertain until such mini casinos attempt to be built or expanded and all the legal posturing takes place. However, the seemingly clear issue of live dog races being banned in Florida may not be as certain either. It has been announced that a new group has been formed with the goal of legally challenging Amendment 13. Orlando Weekly reports:

Amendment 13, which passed with a 69 percent “yes” vote last year, banned betting on greyhound races in Florida. Now, the head of a pro-greyhound racing group says they’re fighting to bring the so-called sport back.

In a public Facebook post last week, Jennifer Newcome, chairman of the Committee to Support Greyhounds, announced the group’s intention to move forward with challenging the amendment in court.

Newcome said the group plans to file the case in July. The group adds on their website: “Greyhound Nation did not back down before, and we refuse to stop until the last judge says ‘NO.'”

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