The business of betting has a lot riding on the upcoming midterm election. Proposed Amendment 3 is a measure on the ballot that may give Florida voters the final say on if and where casinos will be built.
Currently, the state legislature decides whether or not a new gambling facility will open. Amendment 3 would have voters approve casino licensing throughout the state.
Izzy Havenick is the spokesperson for the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track and the Magic City Casino in Miami. He also chairs the political committee “NO on 3”. He says the proposal takes away local control.
“People in Pensacola, or people in Jacksonville or even people in Miami-Dade get to dictate what happens in Lee County or Collier County and that’s not really fair,” Havenick said.
Havenick also said he wonders at the motivation behind the two biggest backers of this amendment.
“The Seminole Tribe and Disneyworld have put over 50 million dollars into a constitutional amendment," Havenick said. "And have yet to tell anybody in the state of Florida why they’re doing it.”
The Political Action Committee supporting amendment 3 is Voters in Charge and is funded by Disney at almost 20 million dollars and the Seminole Tribe at more than 16 million. The latter has had a monopoly on Vegas-style gambling since 2010 as part of a 20-year deal with the state.
“If the states wants to expand that, which we completely respect, that’s fine. But then obviously that’s when the compact payments of revenue share come into a conversation,” Allen said.
Allen also added that whether dealing with the legislature or the public at large, moving a gambling conversation forward is always difficult.
“Whether you need 60 percent of the voters or you need the majority of the house and senate and the governor to sign, whenever you are discussing gaming in the state of Florida I think it’s a very emotional topic and its not an easy thing to get a deal that makes everyone feel comfortable,” Allen said.
For its part, Havenick’s group opposing Amendment 3 has raised less than 1 million dollars in this David and Goliath fight, but but said that he has no plans of backing down.
“Because , it does affect my family," Havenick said. "But fundamentally I believe that monopolies and winners and losers don’t belong in any constitution.”
Amendment 3 would need approval by more than 60% of voters to become part of the state’s constitution.