Vote No on Amendment Three? I Agree.
This November, Amendment 3 will appear on ballots statewide in Florida and it will determine who gets to approve any expansion of gambling in our state. Currently, our elected state representatives determine what forms of gambling may be approved. If passed, Amendment 3 would give voters the exclusive right to authorize any further expansion of casino gambling in the state.
While it may sound reasonable, it’s a smoke screen, specifically designed to consolidate power and maintain monopolies — and it will cost the state millions.
Notably, this amendment is being pushed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which along with allies have spent more than $36 million to support Amendment 3. The Seminoles, which operate resort-style casinos in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, want to preserve their monopolistic stranglehold on Florida’s gaming market, as its existing compact with the state gives the Tribe the exclusive right to offer most forms of casino gambling.
If Amendment 3 passes, the Tribe would maintain its near-monopoly on casino gambling. Why? Because if passed, any future gaming expansion in the state would need to be voted on in a statewide referendum and pass with a 60 percent majority. They know that’s a high, high bar, so their casinos would be unlikely to face any future competition, retaining their monopoly and the hundreds of millions of dollars annually that come with it.
So who would lose? You, me and our state’s future. There is an enormous opportunity in gaming for the state of Florida, particularly in the area of sports betting. Scores of other states — including New Jersey, West Virginia, and Mississippi — are now allowing their citizens to wager on sporting events following the Supreme Court declaring the federal ban on state-authorized sports betting to be unconstitutional.
New Jersey’s success story could be a model for Florida, which has more than 30 licensed gaming venues(more than twice that of New Jersey). In September alone, New Jersey saw $184 million legally and safely bet on sports, sending millions in tax revenue to the state to spend on roads, bridges, schools and more.
Amendment 3 would take Florida in the opposite direction, by shutting down the potential for the state to bring in this new, and potentially explosive source of revenue. At a time when two of the largest school districts in the state are attempting to raise taxes to pay for basic needs, Amendment 3, if approved, would take money away from schools.
At a time when the Super Bowl will be held in our state in two of the next three years, we will vote on an amendment that, if approved, would drive thousands of visitors, and their spending, away.
The American Gaming Association predicted last year that sports betting would provide Florida with $150 million in new revenue and more than 3,800 jobs.
By voting “yes” on Amendment 3, you’re looking at all of that potential funding and those jobs and saying “No thanks.”
While I deeply respect the concerns of those opposed to gaming, we have to be realistic — sports betting is happening in our state, and on a massive level in the predatory, illegal black market. Estimates are nearly $10 billion dollars is bet annually (yes, billion) in Florida today. So trying to curtail sports betting by voting for Amendment 3 won’t address the problem. The only solution is to legalize sports betting, tightly regulate it and tax it to pay for things our state needs like improving our public schools.
I’ve worked in the gaming industry as an attorney for more than 10 years, and now, since the Supreme Court ruling, we are seeing states across the country race to take advantage of the opportunities provided by sports betting. And the state of Florida should be able to outflank every other state on sports betting due to its year-round warm weather (with 633 miles of beaches), pace-setting tourism industry (with over 116 million annual visitors to the state, according to Visit Florida), and large population base (it is the third largest state).
If you are skeptical of Florida’s vast potential as a sports betting mecca, consider this: the two most-heavily wagered upon sporting events in North America are the Super Bowl and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, both held during the winter months. Where would you rather bet on these games? In a cold-weather state? Or near a beach resort in Florida? To ask the question is to answer it.
Florida could easily become one of the country’s top sports betting markets, particularly if all commercial gaming venues (and not just the Seminole Tribe) are allowed to offer it and online betting is also legalized. But voting ‘yes’ for Amendment 3 will kill that potential opportunity and deprive Florida of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue, not to mention thousands of potential new jobs and other substantial economic benefits.
The tribal casinos support Amendment 3 — it makes sense for them economically. But Amendment 3 does not make sense for everyone else in Florida, especially our school children, and for that reason alone you should vote “no” on Amendment 3.
It’s the only sensible thing to do.
*Daniel Wallach, a Florida-licensed attorney, is Board Certified in Appellate Practice by The Florida Bar. He is also the co-founding director of the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s Sports Wagering and Integrity Program, the nation’s first law school certificate program dedicated to the study of sports betting.