Commercial gaming interests face an uphill challenge in combating Florida Amendment 3, which would restrict future casino expansions in the Sunshine State.
Original story published September 16th, 2018:
A news report out of Florida this weekend communicates that Las Vegas based MGM Resorts International has joined forces with Jacksonville Greyhound Racing and the South Florida Racing Association to combat an initiated constitutional amendment that will appear on this November’s statewide ballot.
Gambling Industry Ponies Up to Fight Amendment (News 4 Jacksonville – Sep 14, 2018)
The $1.25 million investment over a two month period represents further evidence of the multiple, cost-related lobbyist hurdles that statewide commercial gambling expansion proponents currently face in a number of U.S. jurisdictions.
The measure is supported by the Seminole Tribe of Florida along with Disney Worldwide Services, who have shelled out a combined $25 million to limit gambling-based competition in a state that hosts six “Seminole” branded brick & mortar casinos.
Florida law will require that the constitutional amendment receive approval from a 60% voter majority on the November 6th statewide general election ballot in order to pass.
UPDATE – Oct 1, 2018: More news has been reported out of Orlando that Disney and the Seminole Tribe have contributed another $10 million to lobby for Florida Amendment 3. The additional funds mean the two entities have allocated roughly $35 million total to convince voters to pass the measure by a 60% majority.
Disney, Seminole Tribe Add $10 Million to Campaign (ClickOrlando – Sep 29, 2018)
Florida Amendment 3 Details
According to Ballotpedia, Florida Amendment 3 “would make the citizen initiative process ‘the exclusive method of authorizing casino gambling,’ meaning the Florida State Legislature would not be permitted to authorize casino gambling through statute or through referring a constitutional amendment to the ballot.”
Florida Amendment 3 (Analysis of Lobbyist Activities)
* All analysis belongs solely to the author.
Backed by two of the most powerful business entities in the state, Florida Amendment 3 could very well pass in a jurisdiction where a recent study claims that 71% of Sunshine State voters approve of the casino expansion restrictions.
The amendment appears to counter legislative proposals such as the Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act, which would bypass voter referendum mandates via the state legislature and authorize a gambling expansion that includes online poker.
The $1.25 million Florida price tag also shows the rising costs of lobbying for statewide gambling legislation and is in line with similar expenditures for an Arkansas casino petition that cost proponents $368,000 for signatures alone — just to get the measure onto the November ballot.
Florida Amendment 3 (Online Poker & Social Awareness)
Unsurprisingly, the amendment is backed by anti-commercial casino lobbyists No Casinos and Voters in Charge. These groups — led by Consensus Communications founder and strategist John Sowinski — are (at least partially) utilizing socially-laced rhetoric to galvanize voters who are generally against any form of gambling and simply don’t realize those in charge of the outreach have clear ties to tribal gaming.
That being said, several Seminole Hard Rock casinos are known for their live poker offerings, which based on player-industry collaboration over the past decade seem to be competitive with those of commercial casinos such as MGM Grand, which opposes Florida Amendment 3.
To add another wrinkle to this approach to gambling lobbyist activities, MGM Grand appears to be fighting to maintain a statewide legislature mandate over voters in Florida that it openly opposes in the Great Lakes State. In a 2017 hearing before the Michigan Regulatory Reform Committee, MGM Grand Detroit was among several land-based gambling establishments to make its opposition of House Bills 4926-4928 known following PokerStars Michigan game integrity testimony (TIMESTAMP 18:06).
And while the initiated constitutional amendment does hinder a key statewide legislative process — effectively making formal licensure of online poker games in the Sunshine State even that much more difficult — it’s not like commercial casino interests haven’t employed similar socially-laced tactics to stir up player activism against longtime iGaming villains like Sheldon Adelson and the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
The fact that many operators (both live and online) have gradually turned a blind eye toward the plight of for-profit poker players has resulted in a gross lack of communication between players and the industry when it comes to deciphering how activists should respond to lobbyist rhetoric on either side of a corporate debate.
Whether licensed U.S. iGaming operators PokerStars, Partypoker, and 888 Poker eventually decide to shore up some of these lobbyist rhetoric communication leaks that have persisted for over a decade in the poker world remains to be seen.
Florida Amendment 3 and the Arkansas Casino Petition are two statewide gambling expansion measures that Part Time Poker will be covering on Election Night — Tuesday, November 6th.
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FEATURED IMAGE: Florida State House of Representatives