In the works for several years, Florida’s Voter Control of Gambling amendment has finally surpassed 100,000 signatures according to the state’s Division of Elections records. The constitutional amendment, if placed on the 2018 ballot, would give Florida voters the power to limit gambling expansion in the state.
According to the Florida Constitution, the drive’s sponsor will need more than half a million more signature to pass the benchmark of 766,200 to certify the initiative for placement on the ballot.
According to a report on Florida Politics, spokesman John Sowinski, chairman of the political committee behind the measure, says there are another 300,000 or so signatures waiting to be verified, bringing the cause much closer to its stated goal of giving citizens, rather than legislators or “clever lawyers”, the choice of whether to allow more casino gambling in the Sunshine State.
“Tens of thousands of Floridians are signing the blue petition each week to ensure that voters, not politicians, have the exclusive authority to make gambling decisions in our state,” said Sowinski. “We look forward to reaching our goal of 766,200 valid petitions well ahead of the deadline and being on the 2018 General Election ballot.”
Sowinski also heads the separate anti-gambling organization known as “No Casinos” that funded the current campaign with $195,000 in October of 2015. According to the report, Voters in Charge reportedly began fundraising in March and since that time the Disney Corporation has contributed $650,000 of the $688,000 raised since then. In May it was reported they had contributed $250,000 to the campaign.
Disney has long been opposed to casino expansion in the state and now their support for the current initiative has been documented. Disney has historically donated millions each election cycle in hopes of populating the statehouse with politicians who oppose gambling in South Florida, according to a 2012 report in the Orlando Sentinal. Most of the money spent by the ballet drive so far has been on gathering and verifying signatures, according to the local report.
The Florida Supreme Court approved the initiative for ballot placement in a majority ruling in April. However, a dissenting opinion by Supreme Court Justices Ricky Polston and R. Fred Lewis stated: “…the ballot title and summary do not clearly inform the public that the proposed amendment may substantially affect slot machines approved by county-wide [referendums].”
The opinion holds no weight now though as the Court also ruled in May that county referendums do not give operators the right to offer slot game s because there is no state law specifically authorizing the counties to conduct referendums for that purpose. In the Courts ruling against the owners of Gretna Racing, Justice Charles Canady wrote, “In the absence of such a specific authorization, a county cannot initiate a referendum that will authorize the Division to issue a license any more than the county could itself issue a slot machine gaming license.” The decision was signed by five other judges.
The current initiative seems to be in response to perennial legislative notions of bringing a destination resort complex, including a casino, to southeast Florida.