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No Casinos won’t fold ’em: Letter skirmish with lobbyist continues

The war of words between gaming industry lobbyist Marc Dunbar and No Casinos head John Sowinski continued Friday.

Sowinski, the organization’s president, released an “open letter” admonishing Dunbar that he won’t “fool Florida voters” about a gambling-related constitutional amendment on November’s ballot.

Sowinski also chairs Voters In Charge, the political committee behind the proposed “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment, also known as “Amendment 3.” Its aim is to give statewide voters sole authority to approve future expansions of gambling in the state.

Dunbar started it Thursday with his own “open letter” to Sowinski, saying he had “declared war on (the gambling) industry,” was a “bully,” and “lack(ed) candor.”

At issue was a legal opinion that, if passed, the amendment would retroactively undo, or “de-authorize,” any gambling expansion approved by state lawmakers between now and then. Lawmakers recently considered – but are now silent – on a Special Session on gambling after they failed to pass any related legislation this past Regular Session.

Since then, the Seminole Tribe of Florida said it would continue paying the state its share of Indian casino gambling revenue each month, despite a legal right to stop payments.

“You have probably made the most vocal assertions about the possibility that Amendment 3 could have a de-authorizing effect,” Sowinski wrote, addressing his missive to “Marc Dunbar, Gambling Lobbyist.”

“I assume that you agree that it would be misleading for gambling lobbyists to tell legislators that casino gambling they authorize now is immune to Amendment 3.”

“…Contrary to the assertions in your letter, we’ve been open and honest about the effects and intent of Amendment 3 from the beginning,” he wrote. The amendment “was written to discourage ‘buzzer beater’ legislation designed to expand gambling before the voters have their say.”

He added: “Despite your asteroid-hits-earth claims, as we have consistently stated, any de-authorizing effect Amendment 3 may have is largely non-disruptive of the status quo, except closing loopholes that have been the source of much litigation over the years, litigation with which I believe you are intimately familiar.”

Sowinski’s full letter and Dunbar’s Thursday letter are below.

Written By

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee 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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