Voters to Decide Gaming Expansion?

TALLAHASSE-- Lawmakers are settling in for a gaming expansion fight this session, but it may be out of their hands in the future.

Huge gaming companies have their eyes set on making Florida a new type of casino destination state. A proposal in the House Gaming committee won’t leave those decisions up to lawmakers.

“We are a gambling state in Florida”, says State Representative Matt Gaetz of Ft. Walton Beach, "but whether or not we expand that gambling footprint is so important that it’s one of very few questions that should be sent to the people of Florida.”

Gaetz’ bill would allow voters to decide during elections what action the state should take on expansion of gaming and when.

Some on the committee were concerned that leaving a vote up to the people would take the power out of lawmakers hands.

“If we go forward with this legislation we are abdicating our duty, our job as legislators,” Representative James Waldman said.

Waldman isn’t sure that leaving the vote up to the people wouldn’t tie the legislator’s hands with gaming problems in the future.

“Our job is actually to make the laws and make sure we handle things properly," Waldman said. "If we do this and, according to the amendment we will not be able to change anything we see wrong going down the line.”

Supporters of the constitutional amendment say this would eliminate special interest groups from throwing money around and getting their vote passed. Representative Erik Fresen worried it would do the complete opposite.

“It’s going to be a nuclear arms race to do a 30 second ad and a mail piece for every single constitutional ballot that’s put there,” Fresen said.

Even with the concerns, the committee moved to allow voters to have gaming expansion control starting in 2015.

The House committee also voted for a gaming package that would establish the Gaming Control Commission to oversee all gambling operations in the state.

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