Negotiations between the Florida Senate and House of Representatives over gambling legislation were suddenly postponed today after the Florida Supreme Court ruled on a proposed constitutional change in gambling law.
The constitutional amendment would give Florida voters the right to decide if casino gambling should be made legal in the state subject to constitutional approval in November 2018.
Florida’s Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that the wording of the proposed amendment was not misleading. Two Supreme Court justices, Ricky Polston and R. Fred Lewis argued that there was a lack of clarity in how individual counties would be affected by the changes.
Justice Polston said “The initiative is placing voters in the position of deciding between a preference for controlling the expansion of full-fledged casino gambling and Florida’s current legal gaming landscape.”
The focus of the Supreme Court’s deliberations was to see whether the proposed constitutional amendment met the state requirement that all amendments are able to be clearly or adequately expressed in a single line or subject.
John Sowinski, chairman of the pro-amendment Voters in Charge group told the Miami Herald: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has approved the language of this amendment and we can move forward with our efforts to ensure that Florida voters — not gambling industry influence and deal making — are the ultimate authority when it comes to deciding whether or not to expand gambling in our state”.
Campaigners for the amendment still have a lot of work to do to get the 700,000 signatures required to ensure a ballot on the issue by November 2018, with a current total of 74,626 signatures gathered. An additional petition about restoring the rights of criminals when they leave prison, which forms part of the final required signatures, had gained 71,209 votes.
The negotiations, which were due to take place at the Florida legislatures gambling conference on Thursday were postponed and should now take place on Monday or Tuesday of next week.
Chairman of the Florida Gambling Conference, Senator Bill Galvano, said that he would need time to assimilate the decision before “moving forward”.
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