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Floridians to Vote on Amendment 3: Who Will Control Casino Gaming?

Florida map

In the upcoming November elections, Florida's voters will be invited to consider not just whom they would like to put into office but also several proposed alterations to the state's constitution. Among them is Amendment 3, which would mandate that any expansion of casino gambling be approved by voters. These sorts of decisions are currently the province of the legislature.

More About Amendment 3

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According to Florida law, Amendment 3 requires a 60% supermajority at the ballot box statewide on Nov. 6 before being enacted into law. The text of the amendment stipulates that any new casino gaming would have to be approved via the citizens' initiative process, which would see any new casino gambling go on the ballot and also need 60% approval of the voters across Florida before actually being allowed.

Amendment 3 states that citizens' initiative will be the sole means by which casino gaming could be authorized in the Sunshine State. Thus, the current power that the legislature has to OK new forms of wagering would be rescinded. However, state lawmakers would retain their ability to tax, regulate, and restrict gaming.

Citizens' initiative is just one of the ways of placing constitutional revisions on the ballot in Florida. It's also possible for the legislature to do so, and every 20 years, a Constitutional Revision Commission meets and votes on measures to put on the ballot. However, Amendment 3 does not allow the question of future gambling expansion to be referred to the voters by the legislature or the Constitutional Revision Commission because it envisions citizens' initiative as the only legitimate procedure to follow on this subject.

The types of gaming covered by Amendment 3 are those that are considered Class III games within the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This includes:

  • Slot Machines
  • Roulette
  • Craps
  • Keno
  • House-banked card games
  • Sports betting

The definition of “casino gambling” used in this document specifically excludes pari-mutuel wagering on horse races, dog races, and jai alai matches.

[UPDATE: November 12]

The voters took to the polls on Election Day, and they passed Amendment 3 by an overwhelming majority, 71% in favor to 29% against. This easily cleared the required 60% approval threshold, so now Amendment 3 is the law of the land.

All future gambling expansion in Florida will have to go through the cumbersome citizens' initiative process before appearing on the ballot and receiving a similar 60% super-majority “yes” vote. Most experts feel that the unlikelihood of any measures being passed in this long, drawn-out manner effectively kills all new Florida real money gaming possibilities.

More About Citizens' Initiatives

Fountain Pen Writing

There's more to the citizens' initiative process than just writing a suggested amendment down on paper and then seeing how it does at the ballot box. There's actually a specific list of steps that have to be taken before any such text is put before the voters. Formal registration, the gathering of enough signatures on a petition, and a review by the Florida Supreme Court are a few of the stages that must be successfully passed before an initiative is placed on the ballot. The Florida Department of State has prepared a handbook detailing these requirements.

Potential Impact


Although Amendment 3 is billed by its proponents as a way to return control of gambling to the voters, certainly a democratic-sounding goal, the truth is more nuanced. By requiring the statewide approval of a supermajority of voters, it really makes it much harder for any new gambling facilities to be created. The entire process of passing a citizens' initiative is lengthy and complex, so any gaming that voters do intend to institute would take a while to come to fruition.

Opponents of Amendment 3 argue that it effectively robs communities of local control. Currently, they can attempt to institute gambling in their areas through the efforts of their representatives in the legislature. But if this ballot initiative passes, then the citizens of the entire state would have a say in whether or not gambling is allowed in any particular region. Moreover, the 60% threshold is difficult to reach, and it means that new casinos and other betting businesses might not be feasible even if a majority of Florida's residents want them.

Big Money Behind the Proposal

Bills and Coins

One of the puppet masters attempting to sway the results of the vote is the Walt Disney Company. It has already devoted $20 million of its own cash to see to it that Amendment 3 is successful. Because of its family-friendly entertainment philosophy, it would like to see real money gambling in Florida curtailed significantly. This is similar to the way the State of Hawaii feels about gaming, having banned almost all forms of it in order to preserve its wholesome image in the minds of tourists.

Disney's unlikely bedfellow in this enterprise is the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Seminole operate half a dozen casinos across Florida and are the only Indian group with a compact to operate Class III games within the state. It's understandable that they wish to preserve their semi-monopoly. The only competition the Seminole really have for gambling in the Sunshine State are the few pari-mutuel establishments that have already been cleared to provide slot machine and table game action, the much smaller, non-compact Miccosukee Tribe, and, of course, the Florida Lottery. The Seminole have contributed about $16 million to boosting the chances of Amendment 3's passage.

Disney Corporation and Seminole TribeDisney and the Seminole Tribe, United in Support of Amendment 3

The League of Women Voters of Florida is also in favor of the amendment. This group is generally against gambling for moral reasons, so it's no surprise that it has taken this stance.

A Motley Crew of Opponents

Multicolored Crowd

A disparate coalition has gotten together to attempt to defeat Amendment 3. They include such diverse actors as casino development company MGM Resorts International, daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel, National Football League franchises the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and owners of Florida racetracks.

Opponents of Amendment 3Some of the Many Entities Opposed to Amendment 3

What these organizations have in common is a desire to expand in-state gambling. While daily fantasy sports hasn't been ruled definitely illegal in Florida, it's not explicitly authorized by law either, and the two leading DFS sites would undoubtedly like to see their products given the legal stamp of approval. Both companies have recently launched sportsbooks, offering traditional single game wagers, in New Jersey, and are understandably itching to do so in many other states, including Florida. This expansion in their operations was made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Murphy v. NCAA, which ended the federal ban on sports betting.

MGM Resorts International is probably looking to expand into Florida at some point, and Amendment 3 would put the kibosh on its plans. This firm, which booked more than $10 billion in revenue in 2017, runs not just casinos but, as its name implies, fully featured resorts. Florida is a prime tourism destination, so inaugurating a resort – complete with attached casino – within its sunny environs makes perfect sense for MGM.

Pro sports teams, like the Dolphins and Buccaneers, have historically been opposed to gambling particularly sports betting. But now that the U.S. Supreme Court has made betting on sports a fait accompli, these clubs would like to see it legalized in Florida so that they can derive some revenue from it just as their peers in more gambling-friendly jurisdictions will.

Local racetrack concerns have seen their profits drop in recent years. In many other states, horse and dog racing facilities have staved off financial ruin with the addition of slots and other gaming devices to their properties. A few local racing outlets have already been given permission to dabble in this field, but others remain slot-free, and this situation would be unlikely to change if Amendment 3 were to be enacted. Even those FL racinos that presently do allow patrons to test their luck on casino games almost certainly wish to deploy more gambling options, which they would not be able to do without statewide approval under the proposed amendment.

Gulfstream ParkGulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach Dates Back to the '30s
It Now Has a Casino With Slot Machines and a Poker Room

Lopsided Money Distribution


The array of interests against Amendment 3 has put together a couple of committees specifically designed to fighting it. Among them are Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3 and Vote NO on 3. What's amazing is that such a broad spectrum of gambling proponents has been unable to devote more than about $8 million to the cause as compared to the $36 million weighing in on the other side from Disney and the Seminole Tribe.

It could be the case that these separate entities all wish to benefit from seeing the amendment rejected, but they're suffering from the organizational issues that come with having so many participants in play. It's possible that each party wishes to advance the common goal but is worried about spending more of its resources toward this objective than its partners.

Amendment 3 Foes Have Certain Advantages

Check Mark

Those who wish to see more gambling in Florida clearly face an uphill battle contending against the deep pockets of Disney and the Seminole. However, they have a few elements in their favor, such as the fact that the amendment would require 60% approval to pass: a tall hurdle to overcome.

A poll conducted in the spring by the Florida Chamber of Commerce suggested that Amendment 3 already had enough support to pass with 61% of respondents in favor of it, 23% opposed, and 15% undecided. However, when the Chamber held another poll in September, the results were different: 54% in favor, 28% opposed, and 18% undecided. Depending on how the undecideds make up their minds, this vote could realistically go either way.

Looking at the history of how Florida ballot measures have fared since 2008, it's pretty evenly divided between “yes” and ”no.” A total of 33 proposals were put to the FL electorate during this 10-year span, and they approved of 17 of them, voting down 16. However, a further wrinkle is introduced by the sheer number of amendments up for consideration this year: a whopping 12 of them. In 2012, there were 11 on the ballot, and only three were passed, perhaps indicating that the likelihood of success for any individual proposal is lower when it has to share ballot space with too many others.

Of the many amendments being considered this year, one other deals with gambling: Amendment 13, which would ban pari-mutuel wagering on dog races. This text is a lot easier to understand than Amendment 3, and it's possible that anti-gambling voters will be satisfied voting “yes” on it while opting to ignore Amendment 3.

Politics Irrelevant to Online Play

Ace Jack Hole Cards

Whichever side prevails in the Amendment 3 debate, one thing is abundantly clear: Activities conducted over the internet won't be affected. Online poker is a form of recreation that many of Florida's citizens enjoy, and nobody has ever been arrested or charged for playing it. You can learn more about the best sites and how to begin playing cards on your computer with our page devoted to the Florida online poker scene.

If you're in search of other online betting entertainment, then don't neglect our recommended American-friendly online casinos and sportsbooks for USA residents. We've also compiled a wealth of information, not just for Floridians but for anyone anywhere in the country, and have put it together in our online poker USA guide.

Amendment 3 Fight in Florida