Future gambling expansion in Florida may have taken a hit on Tuesday as residents of Florida overwhelmingly passed Amendment 3, 71.44 percent to 28.56 percent. The measure puts decisions about casino gambling in the hands of Florida voters, rather than in the hands of state lawmakers.

Sounds Good, But It’s Bad for Poker

On its face, Amendment 3 sounds like a good thing. After all, the people of the state will now have control of future casino expansion. Any time “we the people” get to make the decisions is good, right? Well, not necessarily. Now, in order for any gambling measures to be enacted, a referendum first has to get enough signatures to get on the ballot and then it has to receive at least 60 percent of the vote to pass. That is a steep hurdle.

In an e-mail to members, Poker Alliance president Mark Brenner said, “Amendment 3 will make it very difficult — if not impossible — to expand gaming opportunities in Florida. If Amendment 3 passes it means there will be no new poker rooms, no chance to add new games at existing cardrooms, and, it forecloses on the opportunity for Florida to legalize internet poker and sports betting.”

The other problem is that it harms the ability of a specific county or municipality to have control over gambling in its area or jurisdiction. If, say, someone wants to build a casino in the Miami area, Tallahassee residents would have input on whether or not this happens.

“It’s really the fundamental loss of local control that bothers people, more so than any specific game or anything,” Isadore “Issy” Havenick, whose family owns pari-mutuel facilities told the Tampa Bay Times. “People in Pensacola shouldn’t be telling people in Miami-Dade County what they should do. And conversely, people in Miami-Dade County shouldn’t be telling people in Pensacola what they should be doing.”

Most major media outlets in Florida recommended a “No” vote on Amendment 3.

The Times, for instance, said, “While it would be good to make it harder to expand gambling in Florida, this amendment is unfair. It would allow casino gambling in Florida only if voters — and only voters — proposed a constitutional amendment, which would then, of course, have to pass. That cuts out the other two means of placing amendments on the ballot, through the Legislature or the Constitution Revision Commission.”

Backed by Corporate Money

A major clue as to whether or not this was good for gambling in the state was who was pushing the measure. Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida contributed nearly $45 million to a PAC called “Voters in Charge,” which advertised in support of Amendment 3. While they framed it as putting decisions in the hands of voters, think about why they would really want the amendment to pass. Disney wants less competition for entertainment dollars plus likely wants to keep up its appearance of a family-friendly entertainment company and the Seminole Tribe has a near monopoly on casino gambling in Florida. It doesn’t want more competition, so it would not be supporting an amendment which would help get more casinos built.

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