Disney And Seminole Using Financial Fire Power To Slow Gambling In FL

Written By Katie Callahan on May 14, 2018Last Updated on May 10, 2022
front of Disney World

Disney Worldwide Services and the Seminole Tribe of Florida paid $5 million each last month in support of the proposed amendment to slow down gambling’s expansion in Florida.

These funders each gave most of the money to the political committee Voters in Charge, a committee who could turn the tide with this amendment because of the number of signatures they’ve collected, reported Orlando Weekly.

The amendment, Amendment 3, stipulates that only voters can approve new casinos in the future. In other words, 60 percent of voters would need to vote yes for the measure to become a law, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

Money in the bank to slow gambling

Already, these funders contributed large amounts of cash to the cause. According to the state campaign finance database, Disney sits at $9.655 million and the tribe sits at $6.775 million donated. A newly filed finance report revealed that Voters in Charge funding for the amendment totaled almost $10.2 million as of April 30.

While Disney continues to oppose casino gambling in Florida, the tribe comparatively would rather have gambling expand into pari-mutuel facilities.

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The state has been here before

This November ballot item would also transition the authority on gambling from the Legislature and the governor toward the voters, who would be responsible for approving casino-style games in the future.

In recent years, state legislators considered multiple proposals for new casinos.

Grassroots efforts produced draft legislation, but Florida Governor Rick Scott continues to be in strong opposition to online gambling.

The Florida House of Representatives also introduced daily fantasy sports (DFS) legislation last year as a game of skill and not gambling. Already, most DFS sites operate in Florida.

Florida also stands as a model with popular racinos that make large amounts of revenue ($147 million in November 2017 for Pompano Park, excluding over $2 million in promo credits).

Net revenue from slots after payouts stood at $10.9 million with average hold at 7.4 percent. The slot machine revenue bested the race wagering and live poker combined.

The Seminole tribe continues to dominate gaming in Florida. The tribe brought in a new poker room at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, back in June 2017 to bring patrons closer to tournament action.

Additionally, the Hard Rock already boasts an extensive daily tournament schedule.

That paired with Florida regulations that require all gaming machines pay back an 85-percent minimum may discourage new operators.

Racinos (Pompano Park, Gulfstream, Casino Miami, and Mardi Gras) return 90 percent on average.

A little history

The state has hosted gambling in various forms since 1931 with dog and horse racing at the onset. Tribal casinos came to the scene in the late 1980s with table games and slot machines. There are eight of these casinos in the state.

While slot machines and jai alai were legalized in 1935 in Florida, those machines were repealed two years later. They were brought back with limited introduction in 1988 with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In 2004, voters brought back slot gaming and approved the introduction of them to racetracks and jai alai facilities.

Florida remains a largely gambling-friendly state due to its relationships with the tribes within the state.

The Seminole tribe, largely responsible for the expansion of gaming in Florida, has operated in the state since 1981. Back then they offered bingo. The tribe operates seven casinos, two of which are called the Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa and Hollywood.

Photo by Andrew Barker / Shutterstock.com

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Katie Callahan

Katie Callahan is a freelance journalist, blogger and copywriter who covers everything from poker, business, education and politics to construction, startups and cybersecurity.

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