Florida voters just made it harder to change its laws regarding gambling. What does that mean to the future of sports betting in the nation?
Florida and Amendment 3
On Friday evening, as the majority of the country was observing to see if there was likely to become an ideological shift in Congress, many in the gaming industry were seeing a different race in Florida.
This race did not involve the election of a person; the race was for Florida Amendment 3, a ballot measure that would shift the power from legislators to voters to authorize brand new casino gambling in the state.
The language of this step was as follows:
“This change ensures that Florida voters will have the exclusive right to choose whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gaming to be approved under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gaming and clarifies that this amendment doesn’t conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.”
Where did the gambling amendment come from?
Just two counties in Florida allow for”card games, casino games, and slot machines” in non-tribal owned facilities.
In 2004, ahead of the current tribal compacts, under the watch of then-Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida voters in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties passed a ballot initiative which enabled for slot machines in racing and jai-alai facilities, which had operated in the 2 decades prior.
The change effectively suggests that in order for the state to expand casino gaming beyond the tribal casinos and existing racing and pari-mutuel facilities, voters in Florida would have to initiate the procedure by collecting enough signatures to get the petition added into a ballot.
“In Florida, the amount of signatures necessary for an initiative is equivalent to 8 percent of the votes cast in the preceding presidential elections. Florida also has a signature supply demand, which requires that signatures equivalent to 8 percent of their district-wide vote in at least half (14) of the nation’s 27 congressional districts have to be collected.”
For reference, the 2016 Presidential election had 9,419,886 votes cast. Eight percent of this vote total is 753,591 signatures required to be able to get a casino growth step on a future ballot. This is a daunting task, without considering the need for geographical distribution, which is demanded.
There are, however, a couple of Florida-based groups that may have the ability to back a campaign of sufficient size to collect these votes at one time in the future. Two which come to mind are Disney and the Seminole Tribe. Really, both Disney and the Seminoles were major backers for passing Amendment 3, allegedly putting in tens of millions of dollars to encourage the measure’s passage.
The resistance saw assistance from smaller gambling providers such as West Flagler Associates and Hialeah Park, in addition to the Miami Dolphins, who (in)famously tweeted an image that implied that the passage of Amendment 3″would block any opportunity for lawful sports betting in Florida.”
If the language of Amendment 3 appears complicated, that is as it is. The language employed in the Amendment scored a grade-level rank of 24 (the equivalent of getting 24 decades of formal education or enough time to earn a Ph.D.) according to Ballotpedia, which ranks the readability of ballot measures. Amendment 3 was worded more complexly than many others, together with the typical ballot scoring between 19-20.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see that the Amendment does not mention sports. So, does this mean that Florida can start sports gambling shortly?
In accordance with Ballotpedia, Amendment 3 defines casino gambling as card games, casino games and slot machines. There’s no mention of sports betting. Therefore, while it can seem that Amendment 3 leaves open the question of whether Florida can offer sports gambling, it fails the far bigger problem, the fact that the State of Florida has a Class III gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.
Sports gambling is Class III gambling based on this Federal Register:
Class III gaming means all forms of gaming that are not class I gaming or class II gaming, including but not limited to:
(a) Any house banking game, such as but not limited to —
(1) Card games like baccarat, chemin de fer, blackjack (21), and pai gow (if performed as house banking games);
(2) Casino games like roulette, craps, and keno;
(b) Any slot machines as described in 15 U.S.C. 1171(a)(1) and electronic or electromechanical facsimiles of any game of chance;
(c) Any sports betting and parimutuel wagering including but not Limited to wagering on horse racing, dog racing or jai alai; or
While Amendment 3 does not restrict sports gambling, the present compact involving the Seminole Tribe and the State of Florida may impose some restrictions.
What’s in the Florida gaming compact?
The Compact, which was signed in 2010 involving the Seminole Tribe and the country (it had been amended in 2015 to add authorization for extra games), said:
“It’s in the best interests of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida for the State to enter into a compact with the Tribe that acknowledges that the Tribe’s right to provide certain Class III gaming and provides substantial exclusivity of such actions in conjunction with a reasonable revenue sharing agreement between the Tribe and the State that will entitle the State to significant earnings participation.”
From the”Covered Games” section of this compact, there is no mention of sports gambling, but There’s a statement that would seem to cover sports betting as inside the covered games section:
“Any fresh sport authorized by Florida law for any individual for any use, except for banked card games authorized for any other federally recognized tribe pursuant to [the] Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, assuming that the tribe has land in federal trust in the State as of February 1, 2010.”
The tribe and the state agreed that the”Tribe is authorized to run Covered Games on Indian Lands….” While Section IV of the compact excludes a number of games including blackjack and roulette (that were then allowed) there isn’t any mention of sports gambling, as explicitly excluded.
The streamlined identifies seven Seminole-owned casinos which could be enlarged or replaced but doesn’t authorize new construction outside the present lands. In addition to abiding by state-sanctioned gaming principles, the tribe, in trade for”tight but substantial exclusivity,” agreed to cover:
$12.5 million each month during the initial 24 weeks of the arrangement;
After that, 12 percent of net wins all sums up to $2 billion;
15 percent on internet wins between $2 and $3 billion;
17.5 percent on internet wins between $3 billion and $3.5 billion;
Up to 25 percent on all levels larger than $4.5 billion each earnings sharing cycle.
These payments are due on the 15th of every month for twenty years by the initiation of this compact.
What about online gaming?
For those hoping for online gaming, there is a clause in the streamlined that states: if the state law has been changed to offer online gambling and tribal gaming revenue falls over five percent in the previous twelve months, the tribe has to considerably decrease their payments to the state below the guaranteed minimums. However this won’t apply if the tribe provides online gambling, subject to express consent.
In the event that the Seminole Tribe loses exclusivity, the state of Florida will be looking for a fresh source of earnings. Part XII Section A. of the Compact states:
“If, after February 1, 2010, Florida legislation is amended by action of the Florida Legislature or an amendment to the Florida Constitution to allow (1) the operation of Class III gambling or other casino-style gambling at any place under the jurisdiction of this State that was not in operation as of February 1, 2010, or (2) new forms of Class III gaming or other casino-style gaming that weren’t in operation as of February 1, 2010.”
If this happen, the tribe is entitled to cease some of their payments until such gambling is no longer operated. Similarly, if existing non-tribal facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties extend their Class III offerings, the Seminole Tribe can decrease some of their obligations to the state as well.
So, about sports gambling…
It’s unlikely that Florida will observe sports betting being offered by any thing other than the Seminole Tribe.
The gaming compact negotiated between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida is lucrative for the nation and extremely helpful for the tribe. For an overview of how rewarding this compact is to get the State of Florida at 2016, the Seminole Tribe paid more than $300 million into the state. The likelihood that Florida would endanger a portion of those payments to authorize something that would generate as small additional state revenue as sports betting is incredibly unlikely.
While Florida sports betting fans shouldn’t hold their breath for widespread legal sports gambling, the Seminole Tribe can, under the streamlined, receive the capability to provide it in their seven casinos. Even though the Seminole Tribe has expressed an interest in being able to provide sports betting at its Florida Hard Rock possessions, they have recently been quiet on the matter within the state of Florida.
Amendment 3 did not foreclose on any hope of sports gambling in Florida. However, under the present gaming compact terms, it would appear to be a costly endeavor for state lawmakers to allow someone aside from the Seminole Tribe to offer it exclusively, a decision that would surely render facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties unhappy.
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