Poll Says Voters Want Say In Florida Sports Betting; Special Session Details Announced

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As Florida lawmakers gear up for a special session to tackle sports betting in the Sunshine State, a new poll suggests some voters want a say in the matter. 

The poll, released Wednesday by McLaughlin & Associates, a Virginia polling firm, found that 76% of voters believe they — and not the legislature — should have the final say in whether or not gambling opportunities are extended in the state. No Casinos, a vocal opponent of expanding gambling opportunities in Florida, commissioned the poll.

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,” the polling company said in a release detailing the results.

According to an analysis by the Miami Herald, the poll oversampled older Floridians and under-sampled Black and Latino Floridians.

The poll was conducted April 29- May 2 among 800 likely voters in the 2022 general election. 

No Casinos led the effort in 2018 to pass a statewide referendum that stipulated voters — and not lawmakers or the governor — were the only ones who could approve expanded gambling opportunities in the state. The referendum passed with more than 70% of the vote. 

DeSantis Deal On Florida Sports Betting Comes Under Fire

Last month after years of negotiations Governor Ron DeSantis (R) reached a deal, known as a compact, between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which would allow the tribe to administer sports betting. The tribe already runs six casinos in the state.  

The Seminole Tribe was paying upwards of $350 million to the state annually for the rights to run those casinos, but stopped making the payments several years ago when the previous governor expanded gambling opportunities statewide against their wishes. 

Under the new deal, the Tribe is expected to pay the state at minimum $500 million annually. This amount could increase as profits are expected to rise. 

This historic compact expands economic opportunity, tourism, and recreation, and bolsters the fiscal success of our state in one fell swoop for the benefit of all Floridians and Seminoles alike,” DeSantis said in a statement announcing the deal. 

But No Casinos believes the deal violates the 2018 referendum. The compact specifies that the servers for sports betting would be run through the tribal property, something the group says “doesn’t pass the smell test” when it comes to legality.  They have vowed to fight the deal through all means necessary.

Schedule Announced For Special Legislative Session On Sports Betting

Lawmakers are expected back in Tallahassee May 17 for a special session aimed solely at approving the compact. 

Earlier this week leaders announced a “Legislator University: Gaming Edition” the Miami Herald reported.  

Supporters are hoping the online multi-day session, scheduled a week before the special session, will help ease the concerns of lawmakers who may be inclined to vote against the measure. Topics to be discussed include “Gaming 101: The History of Gaming in Florida” and “Gaming 103: Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)  and Tribal Compacts.”

State Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) told the Tallahassee Democrat he expects several bills to be filed that will codify the compact.  It’s unclear how long the special legislative session will last. 

House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R), who supports the governor’s deal, told fellow lawmakers the purpose of the “university” is to make sure everyone is prepared come May 17. 

“From the beginning, our goal has been to make sure you have all the information you need, before you need it,” Sprowls wrote in a note to House members, according to the Tallahassee paper.

About the Author

Mary M. Shaffrey

Mary Shaffrey is an award-winning journalist who co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Government." She has spent more than 20 years covering government, both at the state and federal level. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence College Friars she feels cursed. Luckily she is a hockey mom too so her spirits aren't totally shot.

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