More Ballot Initiatives Roll In, The Latest Calling For New Casinos In Florida

Written By JR Duren on July 30, 2021 - Last Updated on May 27, 2022
Ballot Initiatives New Casinos Card Room Conversions

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is taking hits from all sides.

This past week, a pair of initiatives from Las Vegas Sands-backed PAC Florida Voters in Charge appeared in the records of the Florida Division of Elections.

The initiatives would allow three new non-tribal casinos and conversions of card rooms into casinos.

Trio of new properties would challenge Seminole stronghold

Titling it as “Authorizes a Limited Number of New Casinos,” Florida Voters in Charge submitted a proposed amendment that would allow the soon-to-be-established Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) to authorize three new casinos. The casinos could offer Class III gaming, which includes:

  • Baccarat
  • Chemin de fer
  • Blackjack
  • Pai gow
  • Roulette
  • Craps
  • Keno
  • Slots

All new casinos in Florida would have to be located at least 100 miles away by a straight line from any tribal casino.

The FGCC would issue the licenses no later than July 1, 2024. Each company that applies for a license has to demonstrate the financial means to invest $500 million in the casino’s development and construction. Furthermore, casinos would have to finish that spending within three years of receiving their license.

The development of three new properties would certainly capture gamblers who live in casino-gambling dead zones throughout the state.

Second initiative would allow conversion of card rooms into casinos

The second initiative would make a way for the state’s card rooms to convert to casinos, but with some rules.

  • The card room is at least 130 miles straightaway from a tribal casino
  • A minimum $250 million capital investment into the property
  • The capital investment must be spent within three years of licensing
  • The minimum capital investment will change yearly based on inflation

The initiative would open up Class III gaming at card rooms. As a result: more casino-going opportunities in a state where true Vegas gaming experiences are limited to seven Seminole properties.

Initiatives have to pass multiple hurdles to see 2022 ballot

In short, the goal of Florida initiatives appearing now is to gather enough signatures to appear on the November 2022 ballot, then win 60% of the popular vote to become law.

The road to legalization is a tedious one, though. Florida Voters in Charge needs more than 222,898 signatures to receive a required judicial and financial impact review. After that, it needs to garner nearly 900,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

Amid those basic ground rules is a requirement that the initiative receives a minimum number of votes in at least 14 of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

The effort takes time and money, two things that Las Vegas Sands likely has. Funding for initiatives typically covers the cost of getting signatures, verifying signatures (up to 88 cents per signature depending on the county) and all the marketing required to convince voters to sign the petition and vote yes.

The final hurdle: the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The tribe will no doubt wield its influence to lobby lawmakers to rebuff the effort of Las Vegas Sands to elbow its way into Florida. Expect a litany of advertisements to combat the Sands’ marketing campaigns, advertisements that will likely appeal to some Floridians’ distaste for outsider money pouring into the state.

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JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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