An amendment has been proposed for the constitution of Florida that would see casinos created in the state, only if voters have provided approval. The proposal has now garnered the backing of the state Supreme Court after a vote took place and the majority showed their support for the measure.
According to the Miami Herald, the state Supreme Court was divided on the issue, yet the majority ruled in favor as the amendment would give voters the ‘exclusive right’ to decide if casino gambling would be authorized in the state. The vote came in at 4 to 2, with Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Charles Canady, Peggy Quince and Barbara Pariente in support of the proposal. Justices R. Fred Lewis and Ricky Polston were not in favor. Having joined the court late last year, Justice Alan Lawson did not participate in the vote.
Being against the proposal, Polston stated that the amendment to the constitution would restrict gambling expansion in the state and is misleading and in violation of the single-subject requirement. Polston says the proposal does not guarantee voters will know the effects that are possible based on another amendment to the constitution that was passed in 2004, authorizing slot machine gaming in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. That amendment required local voters to approve slot machine gaming.
Polston commented: “The initiative is placing voters in the position of deciding between a preference for controlling the expansion of full-fledged casino gambling and Florida’s current legal gaming landscape.”
Those in favor of the proposed amendment say that it was not misleading and does stick to one subject. With the court’s approval, the measure has passed a critical step. Supporters must now move to collect petition signatures in order to see the proposal added to the ballot for November. There are groups in place that back the proposal and they plan on moving forward with collecting and submitting the required signatures to reach the ballot.
Supporters of the gambling measure had submitted 74,626 signatures as of last Thursday. Voters In Charge is a group leading the way for the gambling measure campaign, whose Chairman, John Sowinski, stated that the group is pleased with the approval by the Supreme Court of the language within the amendment and now they can move forward in efforts to ensure voters of Florida are the ultimate authority when it comes to deciding whether or not the state will have expanded gambling, and not leave the decision in the hands of the gambling industry or deal making.
While that may seem a noble cause, Justice Polston’s dissent gives pause to look at the true motives behind Sowinski’s drive. Voters In Charge is not simply a voter’s rights group, they are an anti-gambling expansion group. In November of 2015, it was revealed that another group headed by Sowinski, No Casinos Inc., had funded Voters in Charge with a contribution of $195,000 to kick start the petition drive for the 2018 ballot measure. In March 2016, World Casino News reported that Sowinski’s Voter Control of Gambling amendment had 69,336 signatures, which was more than the 10 percent of total signatures required to trigger a review by the Court.