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Voters want to weigh in on Florida's new gaming compact, poll finds

'I don't believe it's an expansion,' Sen. Travis Hutson says
Posted at 6:19 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 18:19:04-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Soon, lawmakers will be back in Tallahassee to focus on the future of Florida gaming. They’ll consider a new compact with the Seminole Tribe to expand their operations and offer mobile sports betting.

But, a new poll suggests voters want to weigh in.

A recent McLaughlin & Associates poll of 800 likely voters found the following:

  • 44% think Florida has the right amount of gaming already.
  • 13%, too much
  • 16%, too little
  • 26% were unsure
Florida gambling poll taken April 29-May 2, 2021
A recent poll showed that 44 percent of Florida residents believe the state already has an appropriate amount of gambling.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway, an overwhelming 76 percent of respondents want voters, not lawmakers, to have a say on the new deal.

Lawmakers are set to consider the agreement during a special session starting May 17.

Brokered by the Tribe and Gov. Ron DeSantis, it promises billions in new state revenue and lets the Tribe's current Hard Rock casinos in South Florida offer craps and roulette.

The Tribe also becomes a hub for mobile sports betting, bringing it to the nation’s third-largest state.

"There will be a free-market, so to speak, approach in terms of which site you want to go to that you feel comfortable with to place those sports bets," said Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, who'll be carrying legislation associated with the agreement. "Hoping we can get it done in two to three days, but we made it five just in case."

There are concerns it violates Amendment 3, requiring gaming expansion to go on the ballot. But Hutson said he believes the pact is within the law.

State Sen. Travis Hutson
State Sen. Travis Hutson expects the approval of bills creating a gaming commission in Florida.

"I don’t believe it's an expansion," he said. "I haven’t read it yet, but I believe there's an Oklahoma case that's very similar that has gone through the federal process. I think we're on solid ground."

No Casinos -- the group behind the 2018 amendment -- disagrees. Its president, in a statement, said the agreement "violates the letter and spirit" of the amendment.

"More gambling in Florida will hurt our economy, our communities, and our taxpayers," said John Sowinski. "Floridians not only want to retain control over this issue, but they fully understand that the Florida Constitution mandates that voter control."

Even if the legislature approves the deal, Floridians will still have to wait for the changes. Because the compact deals with gaming on tribal land, the U.S. Department of the Interior will also need to sign off.

Below are the full results of the recent gambling survey conducted in Florida: