TAMPA, Florida — Voters could soon change the way casino gambling expands in Florida. Amendment 3 would take control over expanding casinos in Florida away from the Florida Legislature, and leave it in the hands of the people.
But it's more complex than it sounds, and if you want to see more casinos in Florida, this amendment may not be for you.
- DECISION 2018: Latest News | Voting Guide
- IN FOCUS: We took a closer look at Amendment 3 on our half-hour show
FAST FACTS ABOUT AMENDMENT 3
- Amendment 3 is titled "Voter Control of Gambling in Florida"
- It gives voters "exclusive" rights to authorize casino gambling in the state
- Currently, state lawmakers are part of the process
- Voters would decide on gambling by citizens initiative
- Disney and the Seminole Tribe are big supporters
- Experts say if Amendment 3 passes, it would restrict the expansion of gambling in the state
- The amendment excludes tribal facilities
- Needs 60 percent of vote to pass
What is Amendment 3?
The full text of the proposed amendment can be found on the Florida Division of Elections website. The amendment would add new Section 29 to Article X in the Florida Constitution.
Amendment 3 gives voters "exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida."
Right now, it's up to the Florida Legislature to decide whether to expand gaming in Florida.
How would voters have control of gambling?
"This amendment would require any future changes to actually be put on the ballot as a citizens initiative," said New College of Florida Political Science Professor Frank Alcock.
Citizens initiatives are amendments to the Florida Constitution put forth by a group. They get on the ballot by having a number of verified petition signatures equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the last presidential election. For instance, to get Amendment 3 on the ballot, the group Voters in Charge of Florida had to get 766,200 petition signatures from Florida voters.
Moreover, they also had to make sure that the number of signatures equals 8 percent of the districtwide vote in at least 14 of Florida's 27 congressional districts. So they can't just be 1 million voters in Orange County supporting this amendment.
Then, if the initiative gets on the ballot, 60 percent voters across Florida need to approve the measure.
This amendment would not affect any casinos run by the Seminole Tribe, which is among the groups bankrolling this initiative. It would, however, affect how other gambling facilities, such as poker rooms at race tracks, can operate.
So here's what this looks like:
Say Bay County residents (in the panhandle) want to open a non-Seminole tribe casino. It forms a citizen initiative and draws up an amendment to the constitution.
It now has to fan across the state and collect over 766,000 signatures in at least 14 counties in order for the amendment to get on the ballot.
If it makes the ballot, it then needs to convince 60 percent of voters to allow that casino.
Who supports this amendment?
The group Voters in Charge is run by John Sowinski, who has long opposed efforts to expand gambling in Florida with his group, No Casinos Inc.
On our show In Focus, Sowinski said this amendment allows the legislature to get back to focusing on more important issues, and also takes away the incentive for pro-casino and anti-casino interests from backing politicians.
The Walt Disney Company had and the Seminole Tribe have poured millions into this campaign, according to the Florida Division of Elections. Neither group has publicly commented on why its supporting the amendment.
Who opposes this amendment?
Opponents include some members of the Florida Legislature, the Florida chapter of the American Legion, and South Florida racetrack owner West Flagler Associates, which runs Magic City Casino and Flagler Dog Track in Miami.
The American Legion opposes the amendment because its says that charitable gaming by organizations, such as raffles or pull tabs, could also be affected in this amendment.