The Times correctly pointed out in a recent editorial the dysfunction surrounding gambling policy in Florida. The problem is that in Tallahassee, a comprehensive solution to gambling has become a euphemism for expansion. It seems that in the eyes of some legislators, controlling gambling somehow requires expanding it. Solutions to serious problems are held hostage to unwanted expansion.
We saw that yet again in this year’s legislative session as a so-called comprehensive bill passed by the Florida Senate included the biggest expansion of gambling in state history.
Luckily, the House did not bite. But if it had, rest assured this would not have been the final word. Given unlimited resources and unlimited time, gambling interests tend to get their way in state capitals.
The only way to manage gambling without expanding it is to return decisions over gambling expansion to voters. That’s the way it was for decades, because Florida’s Constitution includes a ban on most forms of gambling. But recent murky case law has given rise to the notion that legislators can ignore the Constitution and do whatever they want.
This is why we are moving forward with plans to place the Voter Control of Gambling Amendment on the 2018 ballot. The amendment provides a much needed bright line as to what forms of gambling are authorized in Florida by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized in Florida, it must be approved by voters through citizens’ initiative.
It removes legislators, lobbyists and gambling industry political contributions from the process of authorizing casino gambling. In doing so, it also closes gambling loopholes that have been exploited over the years.
This amendment is the only approach that will create a comprehensive and transparent solution to gambling expansion in Florida.
Paul Seago, Orlando The writer is executive director of No Casinos.
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