Category Archives: legislation

Florida’s Voters in Charge Petition Reaches 200K Signature and Receives addition backing by Disney

Casino Watch Focus has reported on Voter’s In Charge petition for Florida voters. The idea is simple, voters should have the final say in gambling expansion. It shouldn’t be enough for legislators to pass gambling expansion, in especially in an era of backroom deals and cronyism. They believe when an issue has such a drastic impact on Florida families, specifically gambling expansion, the final decision should be left to the voters. So far the petition has passed all the normal steps on its way being on the ballot, including a look by the Supreme Court. Its now being reported that an important milestone is being reached and additional support continues. An online source reports: 

Disney Worldwide Services, part of the Disney entertainment empire, contributed another $600,000 in August into a Florida ballot initiative that could make it harder to expand gambling in the state. This, according to a newly filed campaign-finance report.

As of Aug. 31, Disney had contributed $1.75 million of the $1.98 million raised by a political committee known as Voters In Charge. The group is at the forefront of efforts to get the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. The initiative would change the Florida Constitution by giving voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state.

The political committee needs to submit a total of 766,200 petition signatures to get on the ballot. As of Sept. 11, it had submitted 216,469 signatures, according to the state Division of Elections website. The committee had spent $1.47 million as of Aug. 31, with the majority of the money going to petition gathering and verification.

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UPDATE: Florida Decoupling Decision Draws Challenge

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to decouple dog racing from gambling venues, thus allowing them to operate stand alone slot machine gambling parlors. True decoupling efforts have been prevented, but the first approved case of de facto decoupling just happened in Florida. An old 1980 law was instrumental in the Magic City case and lead to the recent decoupling that will allow the facility to supplement actual races with jai alai matches. That ruling, however, is now being challenged, but its unclear if the challenge will be heard. The Miami CBS affiliate reports: 

Hartman and Tyner, Inc., and H&T Gaming, Inc., which run the Broward pari-mutuel, have filed a motion requesting that the Department of Businessand Professional Regulation vacate or reconsider the decision last month related to Magic City Casino in Miami.

The decision by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering would allow Magic City, operated by WestFlagler Associates, to replace dog races with jai alai matches and continue offering lucrative slots. The approval dealt with a long-controversial issue known as a “summer jai alai” permit.

In their motion, attorneys for the Broward pari-mutuel’s operators said, in part, that their effort to intervene in the issue was improperly dismissed by the department. Also, they pointed to a 2004 constitutional amendment that allowed slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and contend that Magic City is only allowed to offer slots in conjunction with a greyhound-racing permit — not a summer jai alai permit.

“As an existing greyhound permit holder and slot machine gaming operator, intervenors (Hartman and Tyner and H&T Gaming) have a right to be heard as to how the constitutional and statutory provisions are being interpreted as it relates to allowing new permits to be used for expanding slot machine operations,” the motion said. “Intervenors assert that slot machine gaming at West Flagler’s facility pursuant to its summer jai alai permit should not be authorized and would be illegal.”

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Florida and the Seminole Tribe finally reach a new Gambling agreement

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing struggle between Florida and the Seminole Tribe to come to an agreement over exclusivity rights in the local gambling landscape. The part of the Seminole Compact that dealt with table games and other exclusivity rights has been in need of a new agreement for some time now, and each new gambling bill that has been suggested seemingly strained the nature of such an agreement. Additionally, earlier iterations of a new compact have included far more gambling expansion proposals than legislators would allow. Now, it appears interested parties have come to an agreement and it reestablishes exclusivity and doesn’t allow an uptick in gambling expansion. The Miami Herald reports:

Blackjack will continue uninterrupted at casinos run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, parimutuels will be ordered to stop offering controversial competing card games, and the State of Florida will have access to more than $340 million in new money, under a settlement agreement reached late Wednesday between the tribe and state regulators.

Under the agreement, the Seminole Tribe has agreed to continue monthly revenue sharing payments to the state in return for the state’s agreeing to enforce a judge’s ruling that allows it to continue to operate blackjack and other banked card games at its casinos for another 13 years.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation must also enforce a rule that prevents competing casinos and card rooms from operating blackjack and slot machines that mimic the banked card games the tribe is entitled to operate exclusively in Florida.

“The settlement is one of the rare incidents where everybody benefits,” said Barry Richard, attorney for the Seminole Tribe. “Nobody gave up anything. The state has an immediate infusion of money, and the tribe gets to continue its games.” 

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Disney backs Florida Initiative Petition Efforts to Allow Voters the Final Say in State Gambling Matters

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing progress of the initiative petition by Voters in Charge which seeks to make all gambling expansion decisions passed by the legislature pass a vote of the people before they can become law. Many view this as a wonderful check on gambling expansion given the resent report that 84% of Florida voters want to hold the line or dial back gambling in the state. Most recently, the petition passed a legal challenge and the Florida Supreme Court cleared the bill to proceed, ruling it properly dealt with one subject and is not misleading. Now, Disney has decided to back the effort to collect the final signatures to put it on the 2018 ballot. An online source explains:

According to the group’s information on Facebook, Voters in Charge is sponsoring a ballot initiative “to give Florida voters, not politicians, the exclusive right to approve or disapprove casino gambling.”

Disney’s support for Voters in Charge jibes with the corporation’s previous claims that destination casinos would spoil the family-friendly vibe that its DisneyWorld resort prefers to give off. Disney is one of the highest – if not the top – contributor in the political committee’s campaign last month. 

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Threat of Massive Florida Gambling Expansion from New Gambling Bills Ends over House and Senate Differences

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts of gambling expansion in Florida. Most recently, the both the Florida House and Senate passed gambling bills, but both were very different. The House bill focused on a new Agreement with the Seminole tribe and shoring up loopholes and various items. The Senate bill, however, was a full scale buffet of gambling expansion options including new casinos, new counties being allowed to offer slot machines, other various gambling expansion options. Once bills are passed, the House and Senate must come together to reconcile the various versions of the bill and produce one, agreed upon piece of legislation. The Miami-Herald is now reporting a huge victory for Florida families and this years legislative session is closing with no major gambling bill because the House and Senate were just too far apart on a unified bill:

A deal that could have allowed at least one new casino in Miami, permitted craps and roulette at the seven casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and authorized slot machines in eight more Florida counties collapsed Tuesday. After months of working on competing gambling legislation, Florida House and Senate negotiators declared an impasse that had no hope of being resolved by Friday, when the Legislature was scheduled to end its annual 60-day session. “It’s dead,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

There were many reasons the deal crumbled Tuesday, but Diaz said the main problem was what to do about eight counties where voters approved slot machines at dog racing and horse racing tracks. Voters have passed a statewide referendum to allow slot machines in Miami-Dade and Broward, but there has never been a statewide referendum for the other counties.

The gaming bill’s demise prevents Genting, a Malaysian company, from building a casino in Miami on the former site of the Miami Herald. The Senate plan also could have allowed the declining horse and dog racing and jai-alai industries to stop racing and operate as slot casinos exclusively.

Whereas the finalization of a compact between the State and the Seminole tribe is less than ideal and could lead to more expanded gambling in the future if the deal is handled improperly, the fact that massive gambling expansion through decoupling efforts with dog and horse race facilities, new slot machines in 8 new counties, and new casinos were avoided, it is absolutely a victory to celebrate.

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GUEST ARTICLE: [Florida] Lawmakers’ Rushed Deal to Expand Casinos in Miami is a Reckless Gamble

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida by authorizing a new, Las Vegas style, destination resort casino. As recently pointed out by the Mason-Dixon poll, the vast amount of voters, 84%, want to either hold the line or actually reduce gambling expansion. When it came to gambling expansion through new casinos, the Florida legislature has typically done as the people have asked and not expanded gambling in this measure. However, that appears to be coming to an end as House and Senate are making a deal to allow a new casino to come to Miami and they are facing huge opposition. The below article is the office Miami Herald Editorial Board position:

After years of an impasse between the House and Senate on expanding casinos in Florida, comes a sudden and unseemly rush to get the job done.

The Legislature needs to slow its roll of the dice. Legislation pushed through in a hurry, without much, if any, public notice or input, is never a good thing….

House and Senate leaders appear to be closing in on a deal to radically revamp Florida’s gambling industry and strike an agreement with the Seminole Tribe in what could be a considerable expansion of gambling throughout the state — and Miami-Dade.

The measure rightly has been met with resistance from gambling opponents. This rush toward a decision in the session’s final days to allow, among other things, a new casino in Miami-Dade has that hush-hush, backroom feel — almost always unwise, and usually at taxpayers’ expense.

Count the Editorial Board among those calling for putting the brakes on this troubling quickie deal. The Board has long opposed turning Miami-Dade into a Las Vegas-style destination — and we continue to do so. Gambling, indeed, can transform communities — often for the worse. Miami-Dade is a progressive community of great accomplishment, but one, too, that already is a magnet for too many dangerous and illicit activities. Casinos won’t help…

Among the opponents of the deal is Armando Codina, one of Miami’s most prominent developers, who told Herald/Times reporter Mary Ellen Klas that he was surprised by the sudden legislative sprint. Codina, chairman of Codina Partners, LLC, a real estate investment and development firm based in Coral Gables, has long been a critic of expanded gambling in the county.

“I’m well-informed, but this surprised me how it was snuck in without any public debate,” said Codina.

He added that while the new gambling revenue would flow to the state and county, it will cost Miami-Dade dearly, leaving the community with the kind of infrastructure and social problems that it is already hard-pressed to handle. We agree. 

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GUEST ARTICLE: How the Florida House Gambling Bill is the More Sensible Approach

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling bills presented in this years Florida Legislature. Its very clear that both take very different approaches to the issue and a guest article published by Florida Politics by NoCasinos John Sowinski, breaks the issues down and concludes the House has the more sensible approach:

There are two things we can count on in Florida. In any given body of water, eventually the alligators will show up. And in any given meeting of the Florida Legislature, the same applies to gambling lobbyists. Feed either and they only become more insatiable.

With regard to the gambling interests, unfortunately, the Florida Senate is setting up a buffet of glutinous proportions. Proposed legislation calls for the biggest expansion of gambling in Florida’s history.

It literally would recreate our state in Nevada’s image, with casinos popping up in communities from the far reaches of the Panhandle to the end of the Everglades.

There would be two new Las Vegas-style casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade, a region already suffering from a glut of casinos. There would be a massive increase in gambling supply there, without a corresponding increase in gamblers, creating a dynamic in which the casinos could only survive by cannibalizing each other’s customers. Even the gambling industry’s own financial experts predict that 95 percent of the patrons would be locals, not tourists.

This type of gambling over-saturation is what brought the industry crashing down in Atlantic City, but not before it eviscerated existing local jobs and businesses from restaurants to retail stores.

But the Senate bill does not stop with more gambling in South Florida. Initially, casinos would spread to eight other counties. That only would be for starters because under Senate Bill 8, every horse track, dog track or jai alai fronton could become a casino.

Getting back to the alligator analogy, what the Senate is proposing is akin to taking 500 bags of marshmallows out into the middle of Lake Okeechobee at midnight and tossing them in the water….

Understanding this, leaders in the Florida House have taken a different tack. They have put forth a bill that fixes weaknesses in existing gambling law, closes loopholes that gambling lawyers continually exploit, stops the proliferation of slot machines throughout Florida, honors Florida’s constitutional restrictions on gambling, and respects the will of the people of Florida, who have consistently rejected statewide expansions of gambling. Finally, it provides for an agreement with the Seminole tribe that would achieve the stated intent of the original Seminole compact — holding the line on gambling and creating a firewall to stop the spread of casinos throughout Florida.

The entire article can be read HERE

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