Florida Casino Expansion Proposal Slowly Heading Towards November Ballot

  • The Limited Authorization of Casino Gaming aims to allow casinos in North Florida
  • The proposal has received enough signatures to trigger a judicial review
  • Las Vegas Sands has contributed over $27m in support of the casino expansion
  • Currently, the Seminole Tribe is the only operator of Vegas-style casinos in Florida
Person putting a vote into a ballot box
An initiative that aims to allow Vegas-style casinos in North Florida will go through a judicial review. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Attempts to get signatures

A proposal to allow casinos in North Florida is gaining momentum and could get a spot on the November ballot, allowing the public to vote on the matter.

On Friday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody requested that the Florida Supreme Court review the proposed constitutional amendment. The proposal has received the number of signatures necessary to begin a review process.

Through its review, the Supreme Court will determine if the proposal hits all necessary requirements. This includes making sure that the initiative is clear to the public and focuses on a single subject.

managed to acquire more than the 222,898 signatures

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee informed the attorney general’s office on December 10 that the “Limited Authorization of Casino Gaming” proposal had managed to acquire more than the 222,898 signatures required to trigger a judicial review.

The committee behind this proposal, Florida Voters in Charge, has until February 1 to acquire the remaining 891,589 signatures to get a place on the November ballot. As per information from the Division of Elections website released on Friday, the committee has already submitted 425,523 completely valid signatures.

A significant expansion opportunity

Las Vegas Sands Corporation has backed the casino expansion, providing more than $27m to the committee. The proponents are going up against the only casino company currently able to operate Vegas-style casino resorts in Florida – the Seminole Tribe.

intimidation and harassment tactics

Last month, Las Vegas Sands made allegations against the tribe and its partners, suggesting that the Seminole has used intimidation and harassment tactics to stop the initiative from receiving enough signatures.

The proposed ballot initiative would ask voters if they want to give current pari-mutuel operators in North Florida the ability to also offer casino games. If the measure receives approval, casinos could locate themselves around North Florida’s Interstate 10 corridor, with a major focus on the area of Jacksonville.

As per the requirements of the proposal, the casinos must be located 130 miles from any of the seven tribal casinos in the state. The operators must also make at least $250m in capital investment (construction and development costs) within three years of first offering casino gaming.

A tough market to break into

Las Vegas Sands has tried to bring its casino resorts to Florida for many years. In the past, it has focused its efforts on the South Florida market. However, the Seminole Tribe has managed to control most casino-style gambling in Florida.

The Seminole is the only body able to offer Class III gaming in the state. According to American Gaming Association figures, Florida currently has 15 casinos generating over $3bn in revenue each year. The seven tribal casinos make up the bulk of this revenue, taking over $2.5bn each year.

The tribe also signed a 30-year gaming compact with the state in May. Through the deal, officials aimed to give the tribe the ability to offer sports betting in return for annual government contributions of at least $500m each year. However, a premature launch of sports betting in the state in November met significant resistance before a judge put sports betting on pause.

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