Category Archives: State News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since 2005, when Florida lawmakers began attempting to take over gambling decisions, the restraint of voters has been replaced by the politics of Tallahassee.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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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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