Florida is Turning Into a Battleground Over Proposed Gambling Measure

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A political committee that formed in July this year has raised $1.25 million to aid in the fight against a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to expand gambling in Florida.

Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3, Inc.

The political committee, which calls itself “Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3, Inc.” filed paperwork with Florida on July 18 and held a fundraising drive from August 1 through August 7. The committee received contributions from a number of different sources including Fontainebleau Florida Hotel, LLC ($250,000) and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, Inc. ($500,000).

Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, Inc. is a Northeast Florida gambling operator and Fontainebleau is owned by Jeffrey Soffer, a real estate billionaire who also owns Florida’s The Big Easy Casino, formerly called Mardi Gras Casino and Race Track.

The committee, which opposes a proposed constitutional amendment known as Amendment 3 is chaired by Dan Adkins, who is also the longtime head of the Hallandale Beach Casino and Racetrack.

Amendment 3 

Amendment 3, called Voter Control of Gambling in Florida, is backed by a political committee called “Voters In Charge.” The committee wants Florida voters to have the exclusive rights to decide whether or not to authorize casino gambling. To offer gambling, casinos would have to be authorized by Florida residents pursuant to a vote. This amendment will appear on the November general-election ballot.

If the amendment is approved by at least 60 percent of Florida voters, the ballot proposal would amend the state’s constitution and give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize gambling” in Florida. It would require voters’ approval of casino-style games, thus reducing the power of the governor and Legislature to decide on future gambling issues.

Voters In Charge

The political committee is chaired by John Sowinski. In an email to Florida Politics, Sowinski said,

“It appears that some people would rather buy gambling permits with political contributions and lobbyists than allow voters to have a say.”

Since 2015, Voters In Charge has raised almost $17.5 million to support its efforts.

Pro-Amendment Support

The drive for the amendment has been heavily funded by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which already has casinos in the state, and Disney Worldwide Services, Inc., which is a well-known opponent of casino gambling. Another pro-amendment group, No Casinos Inc., has also donated in-kind contributions to support the measure.

Disney Worldwide Services, Inc.

Disney has contributed at least $5 million to try to pass Amendment 3. In March, Disney made the only cash contribution to Voters In Charge, a political committee that has spearheaded the proposed amendment. Overall, as of March 31, the committee had raised around $6.74 million, and Disney donated another $5 million in April.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe that currently operates three casinos in Florida: Seminole Casino, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa, and Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood. The tribe, as mentioned above, is against the spread of gambling in the state because it doesn’t want the competition. In April, the tribe donated $5 million dollars to Voters In Charge.

Others Against Amendment 3

Another political committee which calls itself “Vote NO on 3” has registered in order to oppose Amendment 3. Also filed to the state in July, the political committee is chaired by Isadore Havenick, whose family runs Magic City Casino in Miami as well as Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Racing & Poker in Bonita Springs. The Havenick family has recently received approval from Florida’s gambling regulators to open a casino in the Edgewater neighborhood of Miami. To date, no campaign finance information has been filed and released online.

Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

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