Voters to decide expansion of Florida gaming industry

Groups spend millions educating voters
Posted at 4:33 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 20:38:07-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Disney and the Seminole Tribe have teamed up to push a ballot question aimed at slowing the expansion of gambling in the state, but opponents warn the initiative could shut down existing card games and put people out of work.

ABC Action News Investigator Adam Walser found that Disney and the Seminole Tribe have spent more than $36 million combined to support Amendment 3, which would require any new gambling to be directly approved by 60 percent of voters.

The Walt Disney Company opposes any new gambling in Florida, while the Seminole Tribe, which operates Hard Rock casino operations in Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale, does not want more competition to its businesses.

In the lead up to next month’s election, supporters and opponents of Amendment 3 have been bombarding the airways with commercials for and against the amendment. 

“There’s no question there’s a lot of resources trying to pass Amendment 3,” said former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who supports the amendment. “It would be safer for Florida if the voters were the ones ultimately making this decision,” Weatherford said.

But Alexis Winning said she worries the state could use Amendment 3 to put an end to some of the card games already hosted at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg.

“Voters are being misled. Their advertising is very deceiving,” said Alexis Winning, spokeswoman for Derby Lane, the oldest continually operated greyhound track in the world. “It’s about two corporations protecting themselves.”

She says Amendment 3 could result in job layoffs and less tax revenue from gambling to fund education.

Opponents of Amendment 3 say they’re being drastically outspent by groups that support the amendment and have taken to social media to get out their message.

More than a quarter-of-a-million people saw a recent Facebook post opposing Amendment 3. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also recently chipped in $500,000 to oppose the amendment, which could affect future sports betting.

But supporters, which include the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters, say they are only trying to do what’s right.

“This is a very important issue with regard to the brand of Florida, and it’s something that’s so serious, we should be cautious with how we expand,” said Weatherford.

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