Poker Alliance

Poker Alliance Urges Floridians to Vote No on Amendment 3

The Poker Alliance has barely made a peep publicly since its rebrand from the Poker Players Alliance, but it is finally speaking up, advising its members and poker fans in Florida to vote “no” on Amendment 3, which will be on the November ballot, because it could hurt the expansion of gambling in the state, including online poker.

The measure, called “Voter Control of Gambling in Florida,” is summarized on the ballot as follows:

This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized 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 gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.

Ballotpedia explains further, saying, “….the Florida State Legislature would not be permitted to authorize casino gambling through statute or through referring a constitutional amendment to the ballot.”

FloridaVoters Make the Decisions, So That’s Good, Right?

Now, giving the power to the residents of the state certainly sounds like a good thing; after all, I would normally prefer to have a say in something myself rather than relying on a politician. In the case of Amendment 3, though, the prevailing thought is that online poker and sports betting would have no future if the amendment were to pass. This is because it would be next to impossible to both get enough signatures to add a referendum to the ballot AND get 60 percent of voters to vote for any sort of gambling expansion. The hurdles are just too high if every gambling decision is left to voters.

Poker Alliance President Mark Brenner echoed this in an e-mail to the organization’s members, saying, “Amendment 3 will make it very difficult — if not impossible — to expand gaming opportunities in Florida. If Amendment 3 passes it means there will be no new poker rooms, no chance to add new games at existing cardrooms, and, it forecloses on the opportunity for Florida to legalize internet poker and sports betting.”

Big Money Has an Agenda

The two main groups who have funded the push for Amendment 3 should tell you exactly what kind of amendment it really is. Disney has contributed over $19 million and the Seminole Tribe of Florida has put in more than $16 million. Disney, in its role as a family-oriented entertainment company, does not want to see gambling grow in Florida. The Seminole Tribe has close to a monopoly on casino gambling in the state and naturally does not want more competition. If those are the two groups who have almost exclusively funded Voters in Charge, the committee in support of Amendment 3, do we really think it is a good amendment for poker fans?

Local Control Could be Hurt

It’s not just the difficulty of making any changes to state gambling laws that makes Amendment 3 so rough. Amendment 3 would also pit cities and regions against each other. Because 60 percent of voters from around Florida would have to approve any future gambling expansion, voters from one end of the state could prevent a city on the other end of the state from having a casino, even if the residents of that city want it.

Isadore “Issy” Havenick’s family owns pari-mutuel facilities in south Florida. He told the Tampa Bay Times, “It’s really the fundamental loss of local control that bothers people, more so than any specific game or anything. People in Pensacola shouldn’t be telling people in Miami-Dade County what they should do. And conversely, people in Miami-Dade County shouldn’t be telling people in Pensacola what they should be doing.”

Unfortunately, polls show that Amendment 3 could pass easily. A survey by Hill Research Consultants had 76 percent of respondents supporting the measure, while one by the Florida Chamber of Commerce had 61 percent in support. The bright side of this, though, is that those polls were conducted in January and May, respectively, so they are not particularly fresh. And though 61 percent is still a high number when it comes to a poll, it’s still a sharp decline from January, so perhaps voters are educating themselves.

Most of the Florida media outlets oppose Amendment 3. Florida Today, part of the USA Today network, wrote, “”On the surface, Amendment 3 empowers voters. But because the referendum would be statewide, voters in one part of the state would decide whether a gaming facility can open somewhere else. This would benefit larger companies that have the resources to gather hundreds of thousands signature needed for a referendum.”

The Tampa Bay Times said, “”While it would be good to make it harder to expand gambling in Florida, this amendment is unfair. It would allow casino gambling in Florida only if voters — and only voters — proposed a constitutional amendment, which would then, of course, have to pass. That cuts out the other two means of placing amendments on the ballot, through the Legislature or the Constitution Revision Commission.”

The media voices in opposition primarily point to giving control to the people of Florida instead of legislators. It certainly makes sense on its surface, but lacks critical analysis of the ramifications.

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