A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 3

By: - September 21, 2018 7:00 am

Poker chips. CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix

Amendment 3
Excerpt from 1885 Florida Constitution. Photo edited and used with permission. Credit: State Archives of Florida.

About this Florida Phoenix series: Florida voters could face a whopping twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments cover a wild ride of subjects, including complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and even whether Florida should ban vaping in public places.

Even more challenging is that some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters might be forced to vote for a thing they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Plus, three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court.)

It’s confusing, and the Phoenix is going to try in the coming days to briefly lay out all these amendments for you, explain what they will do, and tell you who supports it and who opposes it. 

Amendment 3: Voter Approval of Casino Gambling

Ballot Summary: “This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.”

What it’s about:

Amendment 3 is not that complicated. It asks a simple yes or no question: Should the public, rather than state lawmakers, make the exclusive decision on whether to authorize expanded casino gambling in Florida?

The measure arrives at a time when the Florida Legislature has failed to decide on a major gambling pact in recent years. In 2010, the state signed a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida which requires the Tribe to pay the state money in exchange for exclusive rights to offer certain betting games.

Among the issues that state lawmakers have been unable to come to terms on is whether to authorize slot machines in eight counties — Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington — where citizens in local referendums have already voted in favor of allowing the machines.

The amendment’s fiscal impact remains unclear.

Who’s for it?

The Florida League of Women Voters, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Who’s against it?

While not saying that they outright oppose the measure, some members of the Legislature who have been working on gambling legislation over the years have expressed concerns, such as incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, who told the News Service of Florida earlier this year that, “It’s game over for the Legislature if that (constitutional) amendment gets on the ballot and passes. And at that point, we’ll just be spectators in the world of gaming, which will essentially be a monopoly for the Seminole Tribe.”

Some lobbyists and others in the gaming industry have spoken out against it, worried that if Amendment 3 passes, gambling supporters like Disney and the Seminole Tribe  would have to get  60 percent of the public to approve any expanded gambling in the future.

Other key points

So far just three groups have funded almost all of the budget for Voters in Charge, the advocacy group supporting the amendment – Disney ($14.6 million); The Seminole Tribe of Florida ($11.775 million) and No Casinos,Inc. (81,000.)

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.