For hundreds of thousands of Floridians who requested a mailed ballot, the “No. 4 Constitutional Amendment” printed on the back of their ballot may not mean much. But for gaming companies and the state’s gamblers and bettors, it could mean an even harder path to legalized sports betting and gambling on non-tribal land.
Amendment implements two-vote rule
Amendment 4 would add to the Florida constitution a requirement that voters approve an amendment in two election cycles instead of one. Here’s the text:
“Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.”
The “threshold” mentioned is the state law requiring at least a 60% majority for an amendment to pass. So, if one million voters vote on the amendment, there have to be 600,000 “yes” votes.
If this year’s amendment passes, then all future amendments would have to capture at least 60% of the vote over two election cycles, which equates to roughly every two years.
How Amendment 4 could affect gaming: The Nevada example
If the amendment passes, it would make Florida the 12th state to require two votes for an amendment to pass. And, as such, “controversial” issues like gambling have to run the gamut twice to pass.
A good example of how the two-vote system can derail something like gambling comes from Nevada. In 2016, voters approved a statewide retail energy market. A retail market allowed consumers to pick their energy provider. Big energy didn’t like this, as it would destroy their monopoly.
So, NV Energy, whose massive market share was at risk, spent more than $60 million between the first vote and the next one in 2018. The amendment did not pass the second time around; NV Energy’s dominance was safe.
It’s very likely that the same type of situation would unfold in Florida. A combination of conservative groups, the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes, and outside interests would likely influence the first vote. If, by chance, the amendment passed this year, then the funding and opposition pressure would ramp up before 2020.
Two tribes account for $2.5 billion in revenue
Casino gaming is big business for Florida’s Seminole tribe, who runs casinos in Okeechobee, Immokalee, Coconut Creek, Hollywood and Tampa. The Miccosukee, the only other tribe who operates a casino in the state, run Miami’s Miccosukee Resort and Gaming Center. Revenue from the state’s tribal casinos topped $2.5 billion in 2016.
That revenue comes amid minimal competition. Aside from tribal properties, there are a plethora of Florida horse betting racinos and a casino ship that runs out of Cape Canaveral. The main source of revenue for these properties is slots. Statewide, more than 4,000 operational slot machines pulled in $17.3 million in revenue in August, which is about a third of what came through the doors in February before the pandemic.