Category Archives: Election

Florida Initiative Petition Amendment to Require Voters to Approve Gambling Expansion clears Florida Supreme Court Challenge

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling amendment proposed by Voter’s in Charge. The petition seeks to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot giving voters the last vote on gambling expansion. As it stands now, the Florida legislature can pass gambling expansion even when the vast majority clearly supports leaving gambling where it is or ever reducing current gambling levels. The amendment would leave the final decision to the voters. The petition was challenged and the Supreme Court reviewed submitted briefs. After entertaining all arguments, the Supreme Court has ruled the petition doesn’t violate any state provisions and can proceed to the voters once the appropriate amount of signatures are gathered. The SunSentinel explains:

The court ruled 4-2 that the amendment’s wording was not misleading and sticks to one subject. The amendment gives Florida voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.”

Backers of the amendment will still need to gather more than 700,000 signatures to make the 2018 ballot. They had submitted 74,626 signatures as of Thursday, according to the state Division of Elections.

Each chamber has passed their own gambling bills this month and they differ quite a bit. When that happens, they come together to produce a final bill that both sides can agree on. This ruling has caused the Florida legislature to cancel plans for a conference between the House and Senate to discuss their respective gambling bills. The SunSentinel continues:

Both the House and Senate have passed gambling bills this session, which ends May 5. The two bills are vastly different, forcing the two chambers to go into a conference to iron out the details.

That conference had been tentatively set for 4 p.m. Thursday, but the court’s decision to allow the constitutional amendment to go forward indefinitely postponed it, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

“The Supreme Court ruled today on voter control of gaming. I want to digest the decision before moving forward,” said conference chairman Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

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Florida Counties Vote to Expand Slots but Florida Supreme Court Ruling Likely to Prevent Implementation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing impact slot machine gambling and its possible expansion has on Florida. Slot machine gambling has long been limited in Florida. Over the years, various Legislative expansions have taken place, as well as locations being legalized by constitutional amendments.   In 2010, the Florida legislature allowed counties to vote for slot machines, but only if prior approval by constitutional amendments or Florida Legislature were obtained. In this year’s election, two counties have voted to expand gambling by way of slot machines, but major hurdles still exist before such expansion can take place. Local Jacksonville Fox affiliate WOKV reports:

A major legal hurdle remains before voter-approved slot machines will be available to play in Jacksonville.

While Duval County voters resoundingly approved 2,000 slot machines for the bestbet pari-mutuel facility in Arlington, the Florida Supreme Court is still determining whether a state statute permits counties outside of South Florida to expand gambling through a referendum.

The referendum – passed with 54 percent support in the Nov. 8 general election – cites a 2004 constitutional amendment allowing slots machines at certain Miami-Dade and Broward County pari-mutuel facilities through a constitutional amendment to mean voters in Duval county have the same right.

Many believe the negative impacts of slot machines weren’t adequately represented during the election, but non the less, the Supreme Court is likely to void the results as prior approval is needed outside of just the county and the Legislature hasn’t approved the venues. WOKV continues:

The group No Casinos, an opponent of gambling expansion in Florida, says only one side of County Referendum No. 1 was represented – through millions of dollars put up by the owners of bestbet. “It’s not a full picture of what happens when slot machines come to a community,” said Paul Seago, referencing the touting of new jobs and government revenue from slot machines by proponents.

Seago believes the Florida Supreme Court will determine slot machines are only allowed in South Florida, per the state statute, or that a constitutional amendment is necessary for expansion of slot machine gaming in the state. Seago’s opposition to slot machines stems from the rejection that this form of gaming brings new revenue to cities. He says, money used on slots is actually taken away from local businesses. In the meantime, slot machines are on hold outside of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

 For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


How the Mid-term Elections Impacted Gambling Expansion

Casino Watch Focus has reported countlessly on the impact of expanded gambling in areas across the country. Gambling issues are raised on many fronts, everything from direct legislation prosed by state or federal lawmakers, to individual ballot initiatives that require a direct vote of the people. Gambling is typically a bi-partisan issue with both sides demonstrating support and opposition. However, elections often swing power one way or another for a jurisdiction and it can often have an affect on gambling expansion legislation. Sometimes its seen by one party pushing legislation through their respective lawmaking arenas, other times it’s the influence of the party to shape the language and process of direct voter ballot issues and other times it’s the difference in whether gambling initiatives are passed by the legislature that then require a vote of the people. This election cycle was no different and The Washington Post Blog outlines the winners and losers of this year’s mid term elections where voters directly decided various gambling issues: 

Voters in eight states went to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to expand casino gambling. In several cases, established gaming interests poured millions into state ballot referendum fights. 

*California* Voters rejected Proposition 48, which would have allowed the impoverished North Folk Rancheria of Mono Indians to build a new casino on land the tribe has bought…

Voters in Colorado roundly rejected[4] a state ballot measure to add casinos to racetracks in three counties. The measure failed by a 3-to-1 margin, the Denver Business Journal reported.

Voters in Kansas voted to let allow non-profit charitable raffles.

Voters in Massachusetts chose to keep legalized casino gambling and the three casinos that are already on the drawing board.

Voters in Rhode Island failed to approve table games at the Newport Grand casino.

South Carolina voters gave a thumbs up to non-profit charitable raffles.

Voters [in South Dakota] backed amendment Q, which would authorize the legislature to allow roulette, keno and craps at gambling houses in Deadwood…

Voters [In Tennessee] agreed charities to hold annual lotteries. The charities in question are namely veterans groups that wanted to hold gaming fundraisers…

This election cycle also had an impact on one of the most hotly contested gambling expansion issues, online gambling. An online, gambling-reporting site listed the areas where the issue was impacted:

Tom Corbett’s defeat in Pennsylvania’s governor race can be characterized as a loss for those who would like to see regulated online poker and casino games come to [Pennsylvania]…

The defeat of Pat Quinn [Illinois] is likely a win for online gambling proponents. Like Massachusetts, Illinois politicians have clearly placed online gambling in line behind land-based expansion.

Rick Scott’s re-election in Florida represents a clear setback for online gambling supporters. Scott has been a recipient of Sheldon Adelson’s largess (directly and indirectly) and publicly called on Congress to support an online gambling ban earlier this year. His re-election calls into question what momentum online gambling regulation may realistically have in Florida, a state frequently mentioned as one of the next wave of potential markets for regulated online poker.

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Poll Indicates Florida Voters Want Final Say in Gambling Expansion

Casino Watch has reported on the ongoing efforts by those hoping to expand gambling in Florida. Most of those efforts have been unsuccessful and now that an election nears, legislative hopefuls should pay close attention to the results of a recent poll. The Tampa Bay Times provides access to the press release that explains that voters don’t want the legislature passing pro-gambling bills and they favor a Constitutional Amendment to require statewide support prior to expansion: 

Any discussion of expanded gambling, or limited gambling, may be on hold until after the election but a new poll out by No Casinos says legislators should keep voters in mind before making any commitments. Here’s the press release:

Florida voters don’t want elected officials who represent them to support more gambling in the state, and they heavily favor a Constitutional Amendment that would require voters statewide to have the final say on whether or not a form of gambling is legal in Florida. The poll of 604 likely voters was conducted by Hill Research Consultants, and is part of a candidate pledge package being sent by NoCasinos.org to all candidates running for the Florida Legislature.

“It is good public policy and smart politics to be against the expansion of gambling in Florida,” said NoCasinos.org President John Sowinski. “Floridians don’t want their elected officials to legalize more gambling, and Florida voters want to have the final say on this issue through a statewide vote of the people.” The poll consistently showed strong bi-partisan consensus on these issues.

The highlights of the polling are as follows: 73% of Florida voters support a proposed Constitutional Amendment requiring a statewide voter initiative for authorization of any form of gambling.

Voters are overwhelmingly less like likely to vote for candidates for office who either:

Support expanding gambling in Florida
Support expanding gambling without a statewide vote of the people
Support proposals to allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities

75% disagree with the statement that more gambling will improve our quality of life.

By a 63% to 28% margin, voters want gambling laws fixed before the legislature discusses any future expansion.

Voters think the creation of a new regulatory agency for gambling is more likely to expand gambling industry influence than reduce it.

Voters prefer that gambling issues be determined by statewide referenda, not local votes.

Voters overwhelmingly oppose the legislature granting new forms of gambling to pari-mutuel facilities. 

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Gambling Expansion Moves Forward for Some Florida Communities but Requires Additional Legislative Action

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many gambling expansion efforts in Florida.  Most of the attention has centered on bringing full Vegas-style gambling resort casinos to the family-centered state.  However, several local communities have been debating expanding gambling through slot machines.  With the elections over, a few of those communities have passed referendums to allow for slot machines in one form or another.  However, those battles are far from over as local communities need approval from the legislature to move forward. An online Florida source explains:

A day after convincing Lee County voters to pass a referendum allowing Las Vegas-style slot machines at their facility, Bonita Springs dog track owners prepared for a more difficult challenge: convincing Tallahassee.

The Legislature must pass a bill allowing slots in Lee before any machines can be installed. Attorney General Pam Bondi ruled in January that local slots referendums such as Lee County’s were illegitimate and gambling in the state can only expand through a change in state law. The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which awards slot machine licenses to pari-mutuel wagering tracks, is following Bondi’s opinion.

The decision for the state legislature is not simple.  The state’s agreement with the Seminole Tribe prevents such slot machines.  The source continues:

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has a 20-year, $1 billion deal with the state. The deal gives the tribe a slots monopoly everywhere but Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which approved slots before the Seminole deal was struck in 2010. The tribe’s attorney, Barry Richard, said the Seminoles would stop payments to the state if the deal is broken and slots are allowed in places such as Lee.

The tribe, which worked on getting a gambling deal with the state for 19 years before signing it in 2010, pays the state $233 million annually. Part of the compact expires in 2015 but that involves authorization for table games such as blackjack. Slots payments run until 2030.

Many among Florida’s leadership have argued that gambling expansion is not the answer to solve the state’s economic issues.  Time exists to contact your local representative and urge them to oppose any bills that come up to formally allow these narrowly won victories to become official state law.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Study Confirming Near-Misses Fuel Gambling Addiction Highlights Need to Stay Focused on Slot Machines

Casino Watch Focus has reported many times on the dangers of slot machines.  The psychology behind why slot machines are so effective at addicting players has been the subject of many researchers.  A recent study has examined the idea of a “near-miss,” or coming one icon away from a win.  The conclusion of the researchers is that these near-misses fuel gambling addiction.  An online source explains:

Canadian researchers have provided new evidence that gamblers interpret near-misses as frustrating losses rather than near-wins. This frustration stimulates the reward systems in the brain to promote continued gambling that, in turn, may contribute to addictive gambling behavior.

Studies to date have shown that near-misses support persistent gambling and activate brain areas that reinforce certain behaviors. If near-misses are seen as near-wins, then they should be pleasurable. If, however, near-misses are highly frustrating losses, then they should be unpleasant.

The analyses showed that progressively larger wins led to longer pauses between spins and increased arousal levels. Near-misses with jackpot symbols landing on the first two reels led to significantly larger skin responses than regular losses and other types of near-misses. In addition, the gamblers were compelled to repeat the spin as quickly as possible after this type of near miss.

“By activating what we call the appetitive component of the mesolimbic rewards system, these near-misses may help a player develop a hopeful, subjective impression that the next win is imminent,” Dr Dixon said. “This might ultimately contribute to the sensitization of the appetitive system, which plays a key role in addictive behavior.”

This type of research helps to illustrate how people can become addicted to slots.  As elections near, its research like this that demands close attention to the types of gambling that could be exposed to communities.  Natasha Shull, a cultural anthropologist and associate professor in MIT’s Program on Science, Technology and Society, has spent the last 15 years researching and studding the slot machines.  In an MIT article, she explains how slot machines are designed to addict gamblers and create tremendous profits for casinos:

Schull herself is not a gambler, but says she can relate to gamblers when they talk about the repetitive, absorbed relationship they enter into with the technology. “I think many of us understand what it’s like to zone out on machines.

As Schull explains, today’s machines are much different from ones of the past. Visual graphics are now calibrated so the gamblers’ eyes won’t get tired so quickly. Sound is manipulated as well, to reduce the stress of cacophony in cavernous spaces. To facilitate faster play, today’s machines have buttons and touch-screens instead of handles and mechanical reels.

Instead of coins, they accept player credit cards. Instead of a few games per minute, it is now possible to play hundreds. Inside the machines, complicated algorithms control the odds. “Every feature of the machines is geared to keep people playing until they’re broke.”

Natasha Shull had published a new book Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas. Her book and research will be the feature of many articles on Casino Watch Focus and more information on her book can be found here.  As elections near in your communities, please remember that there’s a reason gambling companies spend so much money to influence elections and to expand gambling.  Its not because they plan to make winners of everyone in the neighborhoods, its because they have designed a method of revenue collection for high profits that are fueled by addiction.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION


Hungary Views Slot Machines as a Threat to National Security

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling expansion efforts in Florida.  As the election draws near, many local communities will be voting on a myriad of gambling initiatives, most of which involve slots.  The dangers of slot machines can be devastating to a community and one nation has more than recognized their danger.  Hungary is viewing slots as a threat to their national security.  The Wall Street Journal explains:

Hungary’s government decided Monday urgent action is needed to crack down on gambling because it eats into people’s incomes and poses a threat to national security.

State secretary Janos Lazar said that slot machines present a serious hazard, especially for the rural poor who spend sizable chunks of their small salaries and welfare benefits on one-armed bandits.

“Gambling is explicitly dangerous and harmful for society,” Mr. Lazar said. Games of chance in general go against the credo of his conservative political family, he said, which is why the government considers the matter a key priority.

The country is so adamant about the dangers of slot machines, that they are taking swift measures to outlaw them. The Wall Street Journal continues:

Mr. Lazar said the ruling majority will rush the necessary legal changes. A group of representatives from the governing Fidesz party will submit legislation Monday with a final vote coming as soon as Tuesday. The urgency is warranted by new information on a national security risk from groups in the gambling industry, Mr. Lazar said while declining to divulge any details regarding the nature of the risks.

Under the legal revision, slot machines will no longer be put into operation and those currently in use would be recalled, the only exceptions being casinos that have concessions from the state. If adopted, the measure will have widespread effects on many low-range bars and pubs, which operate slot machines that generate a considerable part of their revenue.

Mr. Lazar said that the revenue shortfall to the budget resulting from the slot machine ban will be made up through new regulations and taxes on online gambling.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION