Florida’s gambling laws have continually come under scrutiny from officials. The latest poll shows that voters are in favor of Amendment 3, which would put the power to decide on future gambling expansion into their hands.
Florida gambling sector
Florida has offered a variety of gambling options over the years. At the moment, over 80 Native American casinos are operating in the state. Casino cruise ships also operate along the coastal regions. Horse and dog racing are popular forms of entertainment and betting.
Several key gambling issues are on the ballot for the November midterm elections. One of them is the potential legalization of sports betting.
Numerous states have passed sports betting bills since the Supreme Court ended the federal ban in May. Since Florida is such a large state, sports betting would be a lucrative revenue source for both the industry and the state through the subsequent increase in tax revenues.
Casino gambling has also been growing in recent years in Florida: Casino revenues increased by 9% in 2017. Meanwhile, betting revenues at horse and dog racing tracks have declined, as punters prefer to go to casinos. There are even calls for dog racing to be banned in the state.
One of the big contentious issues in the state gambling sector is the exclusive agreement the Seminole Tribe has with the state government. Under that agreement, casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe are the only casinos in the state that are allowed to offer card games like blackjack and, outside of a couple of regions, they are the sole providers of slot games.
This has been a lucrative agreement for Florida, with over $350m (£270m) in tax revenue going to the state from the tribe every year. Since this agreement came into effect eight years ago, the state has benefited by more than $2bn (£1.5bn). This figure is expected to increase even further in the coming years.
Upcoming midterm elections
Other gambling-related motions are on Florida’s November ballot. There has always been a lot of disagreement and debate among politicians about what direction the gambling sector in the state should take.
Many are in favor of eliminating the exclusive agreement the state has with the Seminole Tribe and opening up the sector for more competition.
One of the main motions is to ban greyhound racing in the state. The most important motion up for debate, however, is one that would give voters the responsibility for decisions on future gambling law expansion, rather than the state officials.
This is part of Amendment 3, which needs at least 60% of the vote to pass. It is expected that this would not be a positive move for the gambling sector, as the voting public likely do not want to expand gambling laws any further.
Both sides have raised significant amounts of money for lobbying efforts on this amendment.
Amendment 3 has proven to be one of the most fiercely debated issues on the entire ballot. Disney, which has a significant presence in Florida and has traditionally had an anti-gambling stance, has already given donations of more than $15m (£11.5m) to get the motion passed.
The Seminole Tribe, which has the exclusive agreement with the state, obviously doesn’t want politicians to be allowed to open up the sector to other operators, so it has contributed more than $12m (£9.2m) to the campaign.
Results of recent polls
Polls from the Florida Chamber of Commerce have shown that a decent majority supports amending the state constitution to put decisions about gambling expansion in the hands of the voters.
These polls show that 54% of those polled are in favor of Amendment 3, while 28% are against this motion and 18% are still undecided.
Some noteworthy groups are behind the push to have this motion passed, including the likes of the Voters in Charge group, as well as being endorsed by the League of Women Voters in Florida and the Florida Chamber.
While these recent polls are a good sign for those in favor of Amendment 3, they still need to secure at least 60% of the vote to have it passed.
If the poll represents the actual result of the vote, those in favor would have a 66% majority, enough to pass the motion. However, the 18% undecided voters will have a large say in the result. This poll was conducted between September 19 and 24, and 622 voters were polled.