Gambling and Greyhound Betting Amendments Passed in Florida

Two amendments were approved in yesterday’s Florida elections have set the stage to significantly slow or curtail gambling across the state. One has changed the way Florida may authorize new forms of gambling and the other has put a firm expiration date on greyhound racing.

Amendment 3: Gambling Expansion

Amendment 3 was passed by a wide margin yesterday with 71% of voters approving and 28% disapproving. With this amendment, the state legislature may no longer authorize casino games such as slots, card games and sports betting without first taking the vote to a statewide vote.

Proponents of Amendment 3 portrayed the measure as a way to give voters more control over when and where new forms of gambling are introduced in Florida. Disney, which has long opposed gambling, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has a monopoly over certain types of gambling in the state, collectively spent millions of dollars campaigning in favor of the amendment.

It is also worth noting that Amendment 3 specifically excludes casinos on Indian reservations. This means the Seminole Tribe of Florida may still expand its gambling options without having to take it to a statewide vote. Any other gaming venue wishing to do the same will have to take it to the voters.

Opponents of Amendment 3 argued that it will make it nearly impossible to authorize new casinos or expand gambling options for players. For instance, a casino interested in adding new games must now take the issue to a statewide ballot to give residents across the state a say on what amounts to a local issue.

The passage of Amendment 3 has also decreased the likelihood of sports betting coming to Florida any time soon. Under this amendment, a citizen-led initiative must collect enough signatures to put the issue on the next ballot and then the measure must receive a 60% yes vote to approve sports betting in Florida.

As ESPN notes, Florida amendment initiatives tend to be long and drawn-out affairs. Any effort to legalize sports betting in Florida would have to begin by first collecting more than 760,000 signatures to even make it to the ballot. Then, the measure would have to receive at least 60% approval to take effect.

Amendment 13: Greyhound Racing

Amendment 13 to ban greyhound racing also passed by a comfortable margin with 69% of voters in favor of the measure. Under Amendment 13, it is no longer legal to host dog races of any kind in Florida and it is no longer legal to bet on the outcomes of any such races held in Florida.

Proponents of the measure portrayed it as necessary to protect dogs from what has become a cruel sport rife with drugging, mistreatment of animals and dog deaths. Opponents of the measure argued these fears were overblown, that greyhounds are treated well and that greyhound betting provides much-needed revenue to the state.

Florida’s existing racetracks will still be able to offer poker, simulcasting and slots due to a decoupling provision included in the measure that no longer makes it mandatory for those venues to hold races in order to keep their gaming licenses.

The decoupling provision should limit the impact Amendment 13 will have on gambling in Florida. Many of Florida’s greyhound tracks were already at the point where they were holding the minimum number of live races every year just to keep their licenses for other, more profitable forms of gambling.

Amendment 13 also appears to have no impact on racing betting sites such as TVG and BetAmerica that currently operate in Florida. The measure clearly states that betting is only prohibited on races actually held in Florida.