Gambling amendment passes first signature threshold

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A proposed constitutional amendment to give voters more control over gambling has reported passing the signature threshold to merit consideration by the state’s highest court.

The Voter Control of Gambling amendment has 69,336 signatures as of Monday morning, more than the 10 percent of total signatures needed to trigger Florida Supreme Court review.

It’s the first step toward getting on the 2018 statewide ballot: An initiative needs 683,149 signatures in all. But first, the court has to OK a proposal’s language and ballot summary before it can go before voters.

The amendment’s ballot summary now reads:

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.

The amendment’s backers claim 70 percent approval over the last few years, according to a news release, with “additional polling showing that 72 percent of Floridians believe the state has too much or just enough gambling.”

“This is a big day in the effort to return control of gambling back to the people of Florida,” said John Sowinski, the chairman of Voters In Charge, the group sponsoring the initiative. “We look forward to having the Supreme Court review our initiative and are confident that our amendment meets all requirements for Supreme Court approval.”

Sowinski also heads the Orlando-based No Casinos anti-gambling expansion organization; the two, however, are separate entities.

“If the court returns a ruling in the Gretna case that does not make Florida voters the ultimate authority over gambling decisions, we are prepared to move forward to put the initiative on the 2018 ballot,” he added.

Sowinski is referring to another matter before the Supreme Court in which Gretna Racing, a Gadsden County racetrack, is seeking to add slot machines because voters approved them in a local referendum in 2012. A favorable ruling could open the door for slot machines at five other counties in Florida where voters also approved slots.

No Casinos and former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in that case, opposing expanded slots.

Jim Rosica

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 [email protected].


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