When the current State Constitution was adopted the only gambling that was approved by the citizens of Florida were pari-mutuels — dog tracks, horse tracks and jai alai — all that had been operating in our state for decades. They were considered live sporting events you could wager on. Since the Constitution was passed — the voters of Florida have rejected constitutional amendments to allow casino gambling three times (1978, 1986 and 1994). It took a Constitutional amendment to have a state lottery and passage of another amendment to allow slot machines in South Florida.
On Election Day this November, voters will be confronted with two proposed amendments that will have a huge impact on gambling in Florida. Amendment 3 would require approval of the voters in the future to expand gambling in Florida. Polls show the amendment is supported by over 70% of voters. Most people want to keep Florida “family friendly” and oppose the expansion of gambling.
However, Amendment 13 will be on the ballot as well. It will be presented to the voters as an animal welfare bill — to end live greyhound racing. In reality — if it passes it will result in the largest expansion of gambling in Florida by converting Florida’s greyhound tracks to casinos.
The Legislature has considered the idea of decoupling racing and gambling at the tracks for years but has failed do so. But that didn’t stop the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) from acting as a super-Legislature and putting a gambling expansion proposal on the ballot disguised as a proposal to end dog racing.
The deceptive approach taken by the CRC was blasted by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers when she ruled that Amendment 13, as presented to the voters, would not actually end dog racing or betting on dog racing. Even worse she said the amendment is “misleading, inaccurate and incomplete.” Judge Gievers described Amendment 13 as “outright trickeration.” In the South — those are practically fighting words.
If Amendment 13 passes it would allow tracks to convert to casinos. Tracks could operate card rooms and slot machines — and most certainly will push for more casino-style games in the coming years. This would effectively be the largest expansion of gambling in the history — yet voters are not even being told what they will actually be voting on.
It’s bad enough that voters are not being told that Amendment 13 expands gambling — the problem is compounded when on the very same ballot voters will likely pass the “Voter Control of Gambling” proposal (Amendment 3) — giving voters the impression that they will have the final say on any expansion of gambling in our great state.
Amendment 13 is not only deceptive — it is a bad bet for Florida. Voters should vote NO on Amendment 13.
Jeff Kottkamp is President of Jeff Kottkamp, P.A. He served as Florida’s 17th Lieutenant Governor.