Florida Passes Amendment 3

On Tuesday, Florida voted to make it more difficult for sports gambling to become legalized in the state. More than 70% of Floridians voted “yes” on Amendment 3 – shifting future decisions about sports gambling in Florida away from the state legislature and into the hands of its citizens. The amendment requires that casino gambling now be approved by a statewide vote of over 60 percent – which is always challenging to secure. As a result of the amendment, it will be much more difficult for a new casino to be built in Florida. Legislators and lobbyists will no longer have a voice – as any future casinos will have be approved by Florida citizens. Historically, it is a long and arduous process to get citizens to approve new gambling laws. Consequently, legalized sports gambling in the state of Florida will face an uphill battle.

The biggest proponents of the bill were the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Walt Disney Company. The Seminole Tribe and Disney spent over $31 million lobbying for the passage of Amendment 3. The Seminole Tribe of Florida – owners of six casinos in the state, including the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida – were in favor of the bill because it will allow them to maintain their stranglehold on casino gambling in the state. Disney, on the other hand, opposed the amendment because theoretically an increase in gambling would lessen the amount of money people spend on Disney related entertainment in the state.

Those who lobbied against the amendment included groups like “Citizens for the Truth about Amendment 3” and “Vote No on 3” – who raised approximately $8 million in opposition to the bill. The groups were backed by several slot machine companies in the state, as well as popular sports gambling sites like DraftKings and FanDuel. In addition, two of the three NFL teams in Florida – the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers opposed the amendment. The city of Tampa Bay donated $500,000 to a political committee that opposed the measure.

While, on the surface, the future of sports gambling in the state of Florida may look bleak, there may be some reason for hope. Notably, the Dolphins and Buccaneers argued that passage of the amendment will not allow the possibility of legalizing sports betting in Florida – however, that may not be the case. Specifically, as noted by sports betting expert and attorney Daniel Wallach “under binding Florida Supreme Court precedent, a ballot question such as Amendment 3 must give the voter ‘fair notice’ of what he or she is voting on. The words ‘sports betting’ do not appear anywhere in Amendment 3.” This potential loophole or lack of specifically referencing “sports betting” in the amendment, may open the door for future legalized sports gambling in the state.

While a “no” vote on Amendment 3 may have sped up the legalization process for sports gambling in the state of Florida – the “yes” vote is not necessarily a death knell to sports betting in the state. As always, the future of sports gambling in Florida remains murky, but there is reason to believe that the possibility of legal sports betting in Florida is not dead in the water.