Amendment 3. That’s the hot topic in Florida right now when it comes to sports betting. With a staggering 70% of the vote, this bill sees Florida voters having the exclusive right to decide whether to expand casino gambling or not in the state of Florida. But the big question, and the one causing all the consternation right now, is whether that is extended to sports betting.
The definition of “casino gambling,” as it appears in Amendment 3, does not allude to whether sports betting specifically is included. Now with this bill passed, the legalization of Florida sports betting at any point in the near future is in doubt.
“Typical Casino Games” And The IGRA Question
Looking at the Amendment 3 petition form, “casino gambling” is defined as games “typically found” in casinos, and games defined in Class III under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA.) Now the latter definition on closer inspection is open-ended in that it includes, “games that are added to such definition of Class III gaming in the future.” While the former is more problematic as “typically found” games in casinos, do certainly not include sports betting; and this interpretation might be problematic putting sports betting legalization back in the hands of the legislature.
The reference date for defining “typical casino games” as referred to on the Amendment 3 petition form is November 6, 2018. Now of 40 states with legal gambling, only six offered sports betting as of that date. And of the 500 Native American casinos, less than 1% offered sports betting. This very definitely makes sports betting “atypical” rather than “typical” as defined by the Amendment 3 petition form requirement.
Was Florida’s Voting Process Fair?
Florida’s constitutional law requires a ballot question to be clear in defining precisely what a voter is voting for; in fact, the exact wording is that voters must be informed “in clear and unambiguous language,” of the primary function of their ballot. The difficulty we are faced with now is that in no instance was the phrase “sports wagering” or “sports betting” ever referred to on the official ballot, meaning that the goal of the vote was possibly misleading to the average voter. The wording in reference to sports betting does not appear in the summary, text or title of the ballot.
What the ballot does do is provide voters with complex and intricate definitional tests for the term “casino gambling.” In fairness, almost nobody apart from legal experts or casino aficionados would have even have heard of IGRA or Class III gaming, let alone be able to define “typical” casino games. And this is the crux of the matter which is proving so problematic.
Just to make things extra tricky, we have the South Florida’s Seminole Tribe which has a compact conclude in 2010 with the state which could jeopardize extremely lucrative revenue sharing with the state – $290 Million in the past year alone.
The terms of the agreement stipulate that the Seminoles retain the right to cease or reduce their payments to the state should the state threaten their exclusivity to host gaming through a change in Florida law.
Given the above, we are still in for some interesting debates around this topic and it will be fascinating to see what positions are taken in the legislature and by the tribes in addressing and determining the final outcome around this pressing matter for the Florida gaming community.