By Mary Ellen Klas
In what may be a warning shot to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature in their pursuit of a gambling deal that will legalize mobile sports betting in Florida, a new poll commissioned by No Casinos shows 76% of Floridians surveyed say voters should have to approve.
Under federal and state law, the Florida Legislature and the federal government must approve of any gaming deal between the Tribe and the state before it can take effect. Legislative leaders on Wednesday formally scheduled the week of May 17-21 for a special session to vote on ratification of a compact, create a new gaming commission to regulate all parimutuel and casino gambling and end the requirement that parimutuels conduct live racing or jai-alai matches to operate card rooms or slot machines.
But opponents of expanded gambling in Florida say that a constitutional amendment passed by 71% of voters in 2018 requires that an expansion of gambling needs to be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.
DOES AMENDMENT 3 APPLY TO THIS?
There is debate whether the compact, including sports betting, is covered under the 2018 amendment, but when pollsters asked if voters or the governor and Legislature should approve of the agreement, 79% of likely voters surveyed said that it does fall under the amendment, while 13% said lawmakers can approve it without a statewide vote.
“Most voters believe that the compact’s predicate that having the computer system hub that hosts online gambling on tribal property constitutes gambling as being on tribal lands does not pass the ‘smell test,’ ” said pollsters Jim McLaughlin and Rob Schmidt in a memo released Wednesday for No Casinos.
The statewide survey of 800 likely 2022 general election voters was conducted April 29 through May 2. Participantswere selected to reflect the state’s racial, ethnic and gender demographics and voters were reached via live telephone calls and text messages. A demographic breakdown of the participants provided to the Herald/Times showed the poll over-indexed for likely voters who are 65 and older and under-indexed for people who self-identified as Black or Hispanic.
“An overwhelming number of Florida voters, regardless of their feelings on the issue of gambling, believe that voters, not politicians in Tallahassee and Washington, should have the final say on whether to expand gambling,’’ McLaughlin and Schmidt wrote.