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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Proposed constitutional amendment bars casino gambling without statewide vote



Voters would have the final say on whether to allow non-tribal casino gambling in Florida under a new constitutional amendment proposed by a coalition of anti-gambling groups.

With the Florida Legislature under constant pressure from pro-gambling groups to allow Las Vegas-style gaming, organizers of a new group, Voters in Charge, want to pass an amendment that would make clear that no additional gambling can be allowed in Florida without a statewide public referendum on the issue.

“People will agree or disagree about casino gambling,” said John Sowinksi, chairman of Voters in Charge, which was created last week. “But regardless of your position, given the stakes involved and the money that the gambling industry puts into campaigns and lobbying, the people of Florida should have the final say on whether or not to legalize casino-style gambling.”

The amendment would not affect any gambling currently allowed on Seminole Tribe of Florida property, which is allowed through a gambling compact between Florida and the Tribe. But it does send a warning message to state legislators to prevent them from considering expanding gambling at pari-mutuels or other venues as part of an ongoing renegotiation with the Tribe over the deal, Sowinski agreed.

Sowinksi said gambling should already be barred unless there is a vote given a current state constitutional prohibition on lotteries, according to his view. But he said a series of court rulings and lobbying pressure have put that under risk. He said the amendment would clear up once and for all that only forms of casino gambling approved by votes through statewide initiatives is legal in Florida.

His new group, which has support from a group called the No Casinos Coalition, is not pushing for the amendment for the 2016 ballot. Instead, they are aiming for 2018.

To get on the ballot, the group needs to collect 683,149 signatures from registered voters in Florida. After 68,314 are collected, the groups ballot language would be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office to sure it is clear and a single subject.

Here is the proposed ballot summary language Voters in Charge is promoting:  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.

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 2:15pm]


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