The Voter Control of Gambling Amendment has been in the works for several years in the Sunshine State, with efforts by the Voters in Charge Committee to place the initiated constitutional amendment on the November 6, 2018, ballot. The organization is sponsoring the ballot initiative which would usurp local referendums and give Florida voters the authority to approve or reject non-tribal casino gambling.
On October 26, 2015, the initiative was granted approval for signature gathering, which was followed by the ballot title and summary being sent to the Florida Supreme Court for review on May 6, 2016. On April 20, 2017, the high court approved both for the initiative.
The news agency reports that according to the state Division of Election website, as of November 21, the organization had submitted some 415,596 valid petition signatures. According to the Florida Constitution, the drive’s sponsor will need around 350,000 more signatures to pass the benchmark of 766,200 to certify the initiative for placement on the ballot. Signatures need to be verified by February 1, 2018.
According to the Voters in Charge website, October was the “strongest fundraising and petition gathering month to date,” with nearly 200,000 petitions gathered and $1.55 million raised. Giving the initiative a major boost, during October, the group’s base of major financial backers grew with substantial contributions from the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Walt Disney World.
Disney has long been opposed to casino expansion in the state, and the Seminole Tribe, who control many of the state’s casinos, has its own stake in the success of the ballot initiative that would limit the expansion of gambling.
Currently, Florida state law only allows for casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and on tribal lands such as the casinos controlled by the Seminole Tribe.
John Sowinski, Chairman of Voters in Charge, said, “We are pleased that the Seminole Tribe of Florida responded favorably to our request to support our Voter Control of Gambling amendment, which gives Florida voters, not politicians or bureaucrats, the ultimate authority to approve gambling in Florida.” According to the website, Sowinski also pointed out that expansion proposals by gambling lobbyists in Tallahassee would violate the 2010 Compact between the State of Florida and the Tribe.
Including the $1.55 million raised during the month of October, Voters in Charge has raised more than $4.1 million in total, according to the website. Additionally, 199,543 petitions have been gathered by the group during October, which brings the total collected to 860,203 of the 1.1 million goal of valid petition signatures, according to the Voters in Charge website.