It is often said that “politics makes for strange bedfellows.” That adage is being proven in Florida, where a referendum on the ballot come the midterm elections has brought together an odd tandem who are looking for the same outcome.
Brought Together for the Same Goal
The Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell reported recently on how the powerful Disney Corporation – the “House of Mouse” that has a hammerlock on the entertainment and lodging options in the Orlando region – and the Seminole Indian tribe – who is the sole proprietor of the monopolistic gaming and casino industry in the Sunshine State – have come together in a drive for the same goal. What could be so uniting that it draws together two disparate entities such as this? The desired goal to see gaming in the state not expand.
This fall, the ballot for the midterm elections in Florida will not only present a mano y mano fight between current Governor and Senate hopeful Rick Scott and incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (not to mention a particularly heated battle between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum for Governor) but also several referendums for the people to consider. One of those referendums is Amendment 3, a ballot measure that would affect gambling in the state. While it may appear to be something that voters could get behind, it might not be something that the people really would want.
The summary of Amendment 3 states that the amendment would give the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling…(to) the Florida voters.” This basically would take the power to decide on the issue from the locales where it may be desired and put it to a decision from the citizens of the state. The amendment also would require that 60% of Florida voters would have to approve of the casino initiatives before they would be allowed, an unheard-of number in today’s world of polarizing politics.
Of late, several local governments have been considering the possibilities of expanding casino gaming in the state. This has brought much consternation from…you guessed it, Disney and the Seminoles.
Reasons for the Partnership
While areas like Tampa, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale (just to mention a few), have seen poker rooms come into their area, Orlando is one of the few locations in the state that doesn’t have a poker room anywhere in its vicinity. The reason for that is the long arm of Disney World, which dominates the theme parks in the area and the main driver of the economy for the area. Disney wants to keep that money coming into its coffers rather than plopping down on a poker table or a roulette spin in a mega-casino.
The Seminole Indian tribe, as stated earlier, has the monopoly on casino gaming in the state. Through its Hard Rock Hotel and Casino properties in Hollywood and Tampa (not to mention smaller operations in Immokalee and Coconut Creek), the Seminoles draw in enough revenues to be able to comfortably pay the Florida government a $200 million fee yearly (under the old compact that prevented casino competition – a new compact is currently being negotiated). The Seminoles would see their revenues fall precipitously should, say, an MGM or Boyd Gaming casino appear on the scene to rival the Seminoles’ offering.
If the power of deciding whether casino gaming would expand would come to the people, both Disney and the Seminoles are confident that they could sway the public’s opinion. How much are they sure of this? According to Maxwell, of the $27 million that has come in to drive support for Amendment 3, $26 million of it has come from the Disney Corporation and the Seminole Indians.
Future for Amendment 3?
Maxwell is under the belief that voters, simply glancing at the Amendment and its wording on the ballot, will think that “giving the power to the voters” ensures that it will pass come this fall. However, there are groups that are fighting the amendment, including Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3 and Vote NO on 3. But these groups may be fighting an uphill battle; an August poll shows that 71% of likely Florida voters will support Amendment 3. With Election Day slightly less than two months away, the battle will be raging onward regarding gambling in the state of Florida.