North Florida Casino Proposal Gaining Ground
A proposal to bring casinos to North Florida seems to be gaining ground with potential to see the issue added to the November ballot.
An effort to bring casinos to North Florida is gaining momentum and proponents are happy about it. Late last week, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked the state Supreme Court to review the constitutional amendment proposal. The option has received enough signatures to start the review process. If the proposal continues to gain ground, we could see residents of the state voting on the matter in November.
The Florida Supreme Court will review the proposal and make sure each requirement has been met. The court will ensure that the proposal is clear and that it focuses on just one subject. The public needs to be able to understand the measure and what they are voting on.
Laurel Lee, the Secretary of State for Florida, said that the AG’s office receive the proposal and it has over 222,898 signatures. The proposal easily reached the requirement needed to begin a judicial review process.
Florida Voters in Charge is behind the proposal and they have until February 1 to acquire the remaining signatures to see the idea added to the ballot. This may be a little difficult since over 891,000 are needed. So far, the group has submitted just over 425,000. All these signatures are valid. The remaining signatures will need to be acquired and all be valid before the initiative will be placed on the ballot.
Help from a Wealthy Friend
The expansion proposal has major support, including gaming company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. The operator provided a huge monetary donation to the committee to help in the effort. Over $27 million was supplied in order to meet the goal of placing the proposal on the ballot this fall.
The Sands Corporation may have deep pockets, but the Seminole Tribe is fighting back. Currently, the tribe has a monopoly when it comes to casino gaming in Florida, and they want it to stay that way. In December, the Sands accused the tribe and is associates of harassing and intimidating those involved in the initiative in an effort to slow the signature process.
If the proposal makes it to the ballot, it would ask voters if they wan to give pari-mutuel operators in the north the option to add casino games. If approved, this would give areas like Jacksonville a shot at offering commercial gaming services.
The proposal states that a casino must be constructed 130 miles from any of the tribal casinos. A minimum of $250 million must be invested within the construction and development process within the first three years that gaming is offered.
This is not the first time that the Las Vegas Sands has tried to get involved in Florida casino gaming. The company has pushed for the opportunity for many years. In the past, the focus was southern Florida, but of course that came up upon resistance from the Seminole Tribe as well as others like Disney.
Right now, only the Seminole Tribe can offer Class III gaming in Florida. The state has 15 casinos and more than $3 billion in revenues are generated annually. Seven of the venues are tribal operated and bring in the majority of earnings, at around $2.5 billion.
We expect the effort against the proposal will amp up and those opposed will try their best to see the effort fail. In the next few weeks, we should see if enough signatures are gathered to bring the proposal to the ballot or if 2022 will be another missed opportunity.