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Gambling control amendment surpasses 100,000 signatures

A proposed constitutional amendment aimed at limiting gambling’s expansion in the state is now over the 100,000 signature mark.

Division of Elections records show the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment now has 104,416 signatures toward getting on the 2018 statewide ballot.

But that’s still a long way from the 766,200 signatures needed for the initiative’s ballot placement.

“Our petition gathering effort is in full swing across the state of Florida,” said John Sowinski, who chairs Voters in Charge, the political committee behind the amendment. He added there is another roughly 300,000 signatures “in the pipeline” waiting to be verified.

“Tens of thousands of Floridians are signing the blue petition each week to ensure that voters, not politicians, have the exclusive authority to make gambling decisions in our state,” Sowinski said. “We look forward to reaching our goal of 766,200 valid petitions well ahead of the deadline and being on the 2018 General Election ballot.”

The amendment would “ensure that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says.

Voters in Charge hadn’t raised money for nearly a year-and-a-half since opening in October 2015 with $195,000 in seed money from the No Casinos anti-gambling expansion organization.

Sowinski also heads No Casinos. The two are separate entities, however.

Since this March, Voters in Charge raised a total of almost $688,000, with $650,000 of that coming from Disney, a gambling opponent. The bulk of the committee’s spending, not surprisingly, is going to petition gathering and verification costs.

The Supreme Court already approved the amendment for ballot placement, though Justices Ricky Polston and R. Fred Lewis had dissented, saying “the ballot title and summary do not clearly inform the public that the proposed amendment may substantially affect slot machines approved by county-wide (referendums).”

That concern is moot since the same court has since also ruled unanimously that counties passing local referendums allowing slots will not be able to offer them because “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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