Category Archives: State News

Missouri Gov. Opposes Gaming Commission and Missouri Highway Patrol on Illegal Slot Machines Highlighting the need for Legislation

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the illegal gambling machines that have been popping up outside of casinos and all over Missouri.  Slot machines are only allowed in licensed Missouri casinos, yet the manufacture of the machines claim they aren’t games of chance, so they aren’t slot machines.  Many jurisdictions have dealt with pre reveal machines and they have all concluded they are slot machines. The Missouri Gaming Commission has defined them as illegal machines, but they can only enforce gambling regulations at the casinos.  The Missouri Highway Patrol has been clear they view them as gambling and they have been working with local prosecutors to try to crack down on the machines. Most recently, authorized slot machine manufacturers have taken to the courts to sue those that manufacture the illegal machines.  Various editorial boards are also standing up against this illegal expansion of gambling. The St Louis Post Dispatch had the following to say:

Reasons abound why the spread of unlicensed payout video-gaming machines in Missouri’s bars, restaurants and gas stations constitutes an intolerable situation. Legalized gambling was approved here as a tradeoff for state tax revenue, but the unlicensed machines don’t bring in any. The state regulates legal gambling operations to ensure they aren’t cheating their patrons, but there is no such protection for those who play these machines.

Another important reason regulation is necessary is that gambling is an addictive activity for some people, which is why the state requires that access to addiction services and a voluntary self-exclusion program be offered at regulated gambling sites. These unregulated sites have no such resources.

The editorial continues and its sentiment is joined by other editorial boards as well, so its odd that Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons isn’t convinced the machines are clearly illegal slot machines.  US News and World Report explains:

Gov. Mike Parson says he’s not convinced that unregulated and untaxed video gambling terminals in the state are illegal, even as investigators in his administration work to halt their spread. The governor’s stance is in contrast to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, whose leaders have made a decision. A patrol lieutenant told a state House committee in October that the machines are illegal and that its investigations resulted in dozens of criminal referrals to prosecutors.

Besides the Platte County case, several others have been filed, including one in Parson’s home county. Polk County Prosecutor Ken Ashlock said there are no payout requirements for unregulated machines, meaning the operators can keep more money than they could in one of the state’s 13 regulated casinos. “People are just getting cheated on them and they don’t know it,” he said.

The Governor’s position doesn’t instill confidence and some have argued its a symptom of a larger problem and is the real reason the Missouri legislator must address the issue this legislative session.  The Joplin Globe argues:

The biggest distributor of the machines, Torch Electronics, has aggressively marketed the games. It says the terminals are not gambling devices because a player has the option of checking the outcome of a wager by clicking an icon before continuing play, thereby removing the element of chance, though players are not required to click the icon before completing the play.

Torch employs politically connected lobbyists and high-powered consultants. The company has made campaign donations to key political players, including at least $20,000 to Gov. Mike Parson, according to a July report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The fact that criminal cases are going forward while the governor questions whether the devices are in fact illegal highlights the problem. Torch and similar companies distributing the devices are skirting the edges of the gambling laws in Missouri and appear to be trying to game the system through political influence.

The Missouri House held special hearings into the machines and unregulated gambling this past summer, and the Senate is looking at a plan to ban the terminals outright.

This is an issue of the letter of the law versus the intent of the law. The Missouri General Assembly must resolve the matter, to permit these games or to clearly ban them.

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Missouri Legislator Pushing for New Casino in Osage Beach Area

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to regulate casino gambling in Missouri.  Each state has different laws and Missouri originally only allowed for 2 hour river boat gambling excursions.  With each passing year, the expansion of gambling through the erosion of the laws has resulted in 13 full standing casinos.  Those casinos do technically float and they have to be located on either the Missouri or Mississippi rivers, but to the casual observer, it appears that Missouri has 13 large and free standing casinos operating.  So, perhaps it’s not too surprising that every few years someone new wants to see a new casino in a part of the state that’s prohibited by the constitution. Branson has been the most popular venue debated, but Osage beach has been discussed in relation to a possible tribal casino.  Now it would appear that much like the Netflix television show Ozark, there is discussion of trying to set up a casino on a new waterway.  Specifically, Rep. Rocky Miller, who was a consultant to the show, is out promoting a resolution he has filed in hopes of adding the Osage river to the accepted venue list.  The Springfield News Leader reports:

A legislator from around the Lake of the Ozarks wants to allow riverboat gambling there. No, this is not a recap of the Netflix show with Jason Bateman. Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Lake Ozark, filed a real resolution in the Missouri capitol Friday that would ask voters to add the Osage River to the list of waterways where casinos are permitted.

Miller said he consulted on the Netflix show “Ozark,”   which centers on the Byrde family’s efforts to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel in Osage Beach. Season 2 focuses on their efforts to open a riverboat casino at Lake of the Ozarks. And Miller says he told the showrunners about the law.

Miller’s approach wouldn’t necessarily establish a casino in the area right away because there is a hard cap of 13 casino licenses that can be granted.  His proposal would simply open the Osage river up to an acceptable venue, so if one of the licenses  would become available. The News Leader continues:

The resolution wouldn’t necessarily bring anything to his area immediately. It wouldn’t touch the limit voters put on the casino licenses in 2008, and all 13 of those are currently in use. But if one were to come available, he said, his area “would become a great option to revive some revenue.”

It’s not clear how much interest there is in the General Assembly this year. Miller said he thinks there’s a chance it gets through the House, though the always-mercurial Senate is a bigger question mark. He said he thought leaving the cap alone would help with the casino lobby, though. He added that requiring a public vote on the issue could be a way to pitch the bill as well.

The odds are most certainly stacked against the idea of expanded casino gambling.  The constitution would need changed to allow the law, meaning the path of least resistance might be an initiative petition, a direct vote of the people.  History would indicate a long shot though, as this exact issue was defeated overwhelmingly in Branson.  

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


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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Florida Gov Encouraged to Pass Lottery Ticket Warnings

Casino Watch Focus has reported on a Florida Bill that would call for warning labels to be placed on the front of physical state lottery tickets sold, as well as prevent online sales in the future. The warning labels would be visible and warn that playing lottery games constitutes gambling and may lead to gambling addiction. Those in support of using gambling as the means to fund education took issue with the bill and drafted a letter. No-Casino’s John Sowindki addressed the problems with the letter and encouraged passage. Florida Politics reports: 

“The lottery industry would rather pretend that there are no adverse consequences to their regressive and addictive enterprise,” said No Casinos President *John Sowinski*. “Clearly there are.” Sowinski goes after specific points raised in a letter from World Lottery Association President *Rebecca Paul Hargrove* to Gov. *Ron DeSantis.*

Hargrove argues requiring warning labels on the front of lottery tickets threatens education revenues in Florida and sets bad precedent nationwide. “The instant scratch-off games have been around for over 45 years, and sales of these games continue to grow every year,” Hargrove wrote, “but more importantly the sales of these games continue to grow funding for good causes every year.”

Sowinski suggests Hargrove gives up the game in her search for further lottery sales.“Rebecca Paul Hargrove’s letter is basically an admission that if Floridians are properly warned about the addictive nature of scratch-off games and other lottery products, that some will choose to not spend money on them,” Sowinski said, “which is the entire purpose of this good legislation.”

Moreover, Sowinski then brings into question the very nature of raising funds off those that are addicts in the first place. Florida Politics continues:

The legislation requires ticket labels read either “WARNING: LOTTERY GAMES MAY BE ADDICTIVE” or simply “PLAY RESPONSIBLY.”

Sowinski scoffed at the reluctance to warn against dangerous behavior or to demonstrate responsibility.

“The World Lottery Association’s letter never disputes the addictive nature of these games,” he said. “The fact is that gambling enterprises, including lotteries, rely on addicts who spend a high volume of money for a large portion of their profits. That they would object to a simple, truthful warning label is obnoxious.”

The bill has been sent to the Governor’s desk and awaits his action.

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Florida Gambling Deal Fails to Pass this Legislative Session

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing gambling negotiations between the Seminole tribe and Florida legislators. Many factors were at play, including a sports betting discussion that looked to circumvent a recent Florida Amendment requiring any new gambling legislation to be passed by a majority of the people. That plan, as well as other gambling issues that were being discussed, has ran out of time this legislative session. In the wake of the news, the only outstanding question is whether or not a special legislative session will be called to deal with any gambling related issues. As of now, it appears the intent is to wait until next year. The Tampa Bay Times reports:

With just days left in the annual legislative session, House Speaker José Oliva on Monday put to rest the possibility of passing a gambling deal. Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, also said he would prefer not to hold a special legislative session to try to pass a gambling bill, likely pushing the issue back to next year. “I think we simply ran out of time this year,” Oliva said.

The 2019 session is scheduled to end Friday. Powerful Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida have negotiated for weeks on a deal that included the possibility of sports betting at the Seminoles’ casinos as well as at Florida racetracks and jai alai frontons, with the tribe acting as a “hub.” Allowing in-play sports betting, known as “proposition” or “prop” bets, at professional sports arenas also was part of the talks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis received an outline of a deal and met with numerous gambling-industry officials Friday. But revamping gambling laws is highly complicated as it involves numerous interests, including the Seminole Tribe and pari-mutuel operators. 

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Sports Betting and Other Major Provisions in the Florida Gambling Compact with the Seminole Tribe Could Prevent Deal

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to renegotiated the expired portion of the Seminole Gambling Compact. Several attempts have been made over the past few legislative sessions, but nothing has been established and they have been acting in good faith since.  As this year’s session approaches its end, the efforts to finalize a new compact have strengthened. As previously explainedit was suggested that sports gambling could be legalized in Florida without needing to involve a vote of the people. Tribal gambling is not regulated in the same way, so if they were to offer it, its believed that it could be a way to work around the need for voter approval. Florida Politics online explains:

Simpson acknowledged last week that the concept of allowing the tribe to run sports books at the state’s dog and horse tracks and jai alai frontons was intended to sidestep a constitutional amendment that passed in November requiring statewide votes on citizens’ initiatives that would expand casino-type gambling.

But [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, indicated the constitutional amendment adds another layer of analysis to an already-complicated legal deal that also encompasses serious policy-making decisions.

“Obviously, me and my staff we’re going through it, looking substantively (at) what it means, but also legally. As you know, there’s a lot of legalities that are involved in this. There is just a (constitutional) amendment that passed. You know, the question, does it apply to the tribe? Does it apply to this or that? So there’s a whole host of things I think that need to be vetted through, but prior to yesterday I had not seen the outline. We have it now and are going through it,” DeSantis said.

This sports betting provision in general, however, is being set up in a way that Florida Gov Ron DeSantis believes could cause problems. Florida Politics continues:

With time already an enemy, Gov. Ron DeSantis injected more uncertainty Tuesday into a gambling deal reached by a Senate Republican leader and a representative of the Seminole Tribe, suggesting its passage would be too heavy a “legislative lift.”

The governor said he and his staff have begun scrutinizing “a draft outline” of the agreement, which would open the door for sports betting in Florida, with the tribe acting as a “hub” for sports betting at the state’s pari-mutuels.

But the Republican governor appeared skeptical of some sports-betting provisions in the deal, which reportedly also would permit in-play betting at professional sports arenas.

The manner in which sports betting is set up “could really affect the integrity of the games,” said DeSantis, who, as an undergraduate played baseball for Yale University.

“If I can place a wager on whether the first pitch of a game is going to be a strike or not, well, hell, that’s a big moral hazard, because that’s not necessarily something that would affect the total outcome,” he added.

Clearly sports betting has its own set of issues, but that’s not the only sticking point for a successful compact. Designated player games also need addressed given the temporary agreement expires after May of this year. The Tampa Bay Times explains: 

But some issues opposed by pari-mutuels could imperil the deal’s success in the House, several lobbyists said.

Controversial “designated player” games offered at many of the state’s pari-mutuel cardrooms are a key element of the deal. The Seminoles — and a federal judge — have maintained that the card games violate a 2010 gambling agreement with the state that gave the tribe “exclusivity” over offering banked card games, such as blackjack.

Amid the dispute about designated player games, former Gov. Rick Scott entered an agreement with the tribe in which the Seminoles have continued to pay about $350 million a year to the state, which pledged to “aggressively enforce” how the games are played. But that agreement expires on May 31, and the House and Senate have not included the revenue in next year’s budget.

The deal under discussion would severely alter the way the card games are being played, making them virtually unprofitable for pari-mutuel cardrooms, sources said.

House Speaker José Oliva told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday afternoon that he had seen a “brief outline” of the gambling proposal.

The issues don’t stop there either. There are discussions to decouple horse racing in the same way dog racing was decoupled by the voters last election as well as other intertwined gambling issues. At the end of the day, Gov. DeSantis thinks it could simply be too many issues with too many parties to come to an agreement in time. The Tamp Bay Times continues:

To appease the pari-mutuels about the changes to the designed player games, the proposed agreement would also allow horse tracks to do away with horse races, while keeping lucrative activities like cardrooms and slot machines, which are legal at tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It is unclear whether such “decoupling” would also apply to jai alai frontons. Dog tracks are already allowed to drop greyhound races, thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment passed in November.

The pari-mutuels would also be able to operate sports books, with a cut going to the tribe, but the profits from sports betting wouldn’t offset the losses from the changes in the designated player games, according to industry experts.

Under the agreement, the Seminoles would be able to add craps and roulette to other gambling activities currently underway at the tribe’s casinos. The tribe would agree to pay about $400 million a year to the state, an amount that could gradually increase to about $500 million a year. That’s a boost from the current revenue-sharing agreement with the tribe, but far less than what legislative leaders had originally envisioned.

The decisions by the House and Senate to not include the tribe’s annual payments in their budget proposals takes some pressure off negotiators as lawmakers work to hammer out a final budget in the coming days.

Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday afternoon told the News Service that Simpson was continuing to work on the gambling deal, which the president said was still in play.

But with just a week-and-a-half left before the legislative session is slated to end, DeSantis hinted that passage of a compact would be extremely difficult. 

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Missouri’s Largest Gambling Expansion Proposal Since Casino Legalization Emerges in the House

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various gambling proposals and changes in the Missouri gambling landscape, but this proposal might be the most shocking. The Missouri constitution was amended to allow gambling on riverboats by the voters back in 1994 and since that time, the qualifications for river boat gambling has drastically expanded. Its started as actual river boats that traveled up and down the rivers for a two hour period, but now no time or monetary limits exist and gamblers walk into full scale buildings up to 25 feet off the river bank (albeit with a tiny amount of river water with a tiny amount of river water pumped underneath them as to technically make them water craft). Even still, gambling has always been limited to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Now a bill has been proposed in the Missouri house that is so radical, it’s not an exaggeration to call it the largest and most problematic expansion of gambling the state has ever seen. An online source explains:

“This irresponsible bill would permit slot machines on every street corner where a restaurant, bar, convenience store or truck stop is located,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association. “These machines look and play just like slot machines. If this bill passes, we can expect to see them in every city, town or community across the state. Missouri could very quickly have more slot machines outside of casinos than inside them.”

“This is not what Missouri voters envisioned when they voted to approve casino wagering in Missouri,” Winter said. “Voters were very careful to restrict casinos to certain locations and to limit the number of casinos.”

The bill would bypass a vote by Missouri residents, who first authorized casinos by ballot initiative in 1994 and also voted to limit the number of casinos to 13 in 2008.

Not only does the bill drastically expand gambling, it seemingly bypassing regulation by the Missouri gambling commission and it leaves vulnerable those people and families who could be most impact by gambling addiction. The source continues:

If passed, the proposed gambling expansion is expected to heavily impact rural areas throughout the state. The same towns and cities that opposed casinos in their communities could suddenly see hundreds of slot machines in family restaurants, convenience stores and other retail establishments.

HB 423 would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from playing lottery slot machines but oversight would be minimal as compared to the strict rules that regulate casinos. Busy retailers with machines on their premises would be solely responsible for monitoring their use.

“The proposed regulations, security and oversight are simply inadequate,” Winter said. “This gambling expansion would bypass not only our state’s voters but also our strong gaming commission, which establishes and enforces strict gambling regulations in our casinos.”

Missouri casinos and the Missouri Gaming Association provide a full range of programs to promote responsible gaming and to help those who have a gambling problem. Retailers hosting lottery slot machines would not be required to provide similar responsible gaming education.

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Florida Votes to End Dog Racing – What Comes Next?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the complicated decoupling issue masked as a simple greyhound ban that later officially became known as Amendment 13The amendment needed 60% voter approval to pass and it received 69%. At face, the Amendment will end live dog racing at the end of 2020, but many questions remain. The Amendment also decoupled the gambling requirements at those facilities from the actual live racing.   This means the facilities aren’t shut down completely, but they can offer simulcast races and slot machines and other prior authorized forms of gambling. The Orland Sentinel explains that some tracks will operate as these mini-casino’s, while others will have fewer options:

While all other tracks in Florida also have card rooms to supplement their dog-racing revenue, Sanford Orlando does not, making its future more tentative.

Florida’s 11 active dog tracks will have until Jan. 1, 2021, to phase out their live greyhound racing. They’ll still be able to race horses, if their tracks can accommodate the event, and they’ll still be able to have wagering on simulcast races from other tracks, including from dog tracks in the five remaining states where the practice is still active and legal.

The questions of how much gambling expansion will also need exploring thanks to the passage of Amendment 3, which will now require voter approval for new gambling. This is a bit of a grey area as it may seem clear that a new simulcast track may not be able to be built without voter approval (a key worry with decoupling as it would be far easier to set up a simulcast location and operate as a mini-casino via decoupling), but expanding the gambling at an existing location may be perfectly permitable. The key example is the number of slot machines. The Sun Sentinel explains how existing tracks could simply drastically increase their numbers as the amount allowed is already established: 

Dog track owners in Florida will be allowed to keep operating card rooms. They’ll be able to run slots in the case of dog tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. So, another result could be that track owners will use their space to expand restaurants and nightlife, or even casino floor space. In turn, the combination of anti-gambling expansion Amendment 3 and anti-dog racing Amendment 13 could mean already existing casinos offer more entertainment options for patrons. 

There already is an example of that. The Magic City Casino in Miami had been a dog track until last year, when the state Department of Business andProfessional Regulation gave it permission to convert to ajai-alai fronton.

The decision capped off a six-year legal fight between the casino and state regulators. With the jai-alai court taking up far less room than the track, Magic City Casino has plans to expand by putting the jai-alai court where its entertainment venue, Stage 305, is now and then building a much bigger entertainment venue on top of the old dog track.

The Big Easy Casino, a Hallandale Beach dog track, would have to stop racing within three years. What might be in store? An option for the Big Easy could be to expand lucrative slot machines. According to its own website, the casino currently offers “more than 500” slot machines. The upper limit for perimutuel casinos under state law is 2,000, though none of them at this point have approached that limit. 

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


Florida Voters Pass Amendment 3 to take Control of Casino Gambling

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the evolution of the Voters in Charge which later officially became know under the title Amendment 3The Amendment sought to give the final approval of expanded gambling to the voters. If passed, new gambling would require approval of 60% of all Florida voters, which is clearly aimed at taking the power away from the politicians. The Amendment required 60% approval to pass and the Amendment 3 pass by an overwhelming amount. The Tampa Bay Times reports: 

Floridians will retain exclusive rights to authorize and potentially expand casino gambling in the state, including slot machines and electronic betting games.

Amendment 3, which garnered about 71 percent of the vote Tuesday, was proposed by Voters in Charge — a political committee largely financed by the Seminole Tribe and Disney.

The ballot initiative came about after the Legislature failed to agree on gambling decisions in recent years — particularly in the House, which is more opposed to gambling than the Senate.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce supports the amendment.

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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 13? 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 13  There are two reasons for a No on 13 vote and they are intertwined. 

The first reason to vote No on 13 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 13 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 13.  The following article, Guest Opinion: A No on 13 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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Florida Ends Session with No Gambling Bills Passed – Seminole Tribe Provided Assurances to Continue the Revenue Sharing Compact in the Interim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Missouri Gambling Bill Represents the Largest Gambling Expansion to the State since Casinos

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the newest attempts to expand gambling in Missouri, that being Tribal Casinos. The opposition was immediate and not much else has come out publicly about that expansion idea. A new discussion for expansion has emerged however, and if allowed, it could easily be the largest expansion of gambling since voters agreed to riverboat casinos. The bill proposed would legalize slot machines in bars, convenient stores and places like the VFW. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports: 

Under legislation endorsed by a Senate committee Tuesday on a 4-2 vote, the state would allow as many as five video gambling machines in taverns, convenience stores, restaurants and truck stops and as many as 10 machines in benevolent organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the Elks Club. 

An analysis of the proposal shows nearly 20,000 slot machines could become as close to home as the local convenience store after a four-year ramp up period. 

Mike Winter of the Missouri Gaming Association said legalizing slot machines would be the largest expansion of gambling since voters approved the casinos. “This is a very substantial change in policy,” Winter said. “We do have considerable concerns with the legislation.”

 The casino industry would obviously see a hit to their bottom line and given they have substantial lobbying influence, legislators decided to add a way to help the casino industry off set some of their losses. The bill paves the way to allow even more expanded gambling by allowing casinos to offer sports gambling. KMOV reported the details:

There is a renewed effort in Missouri to legalize slot machines at bars and convenience stores despite concerns from the casino industry. The Missouri Video Lottery Control Act made it’s way out of committee on Tuesday.

To help out casinos, the bill does allow for sports betting. Taxes from wagering on sporting events could bring in an additional $65 million. But for now, sports betting is illegal under federal law. Hoskins said if that changes, the casinos could participate. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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