Naples News Daily: Our recommendations on gambling-related amendments

Two constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot are gambling-related. Our editorial board recommends:

Amendment 13: Yes

Amendment 13 would end dog racing at Florida pari-mutuels by Jan. 1, 2021.

We recommend approval of the amendment based on two principles: the state shouldn’t force a business to operate in ways that have proven unprofitable, and animals should be treated humanely.

Florida lawmakers have failed for several years to address this through an initiative called decoupling. To offer profitable card games at their establishments, track operators are required by the state to run a certain number of dog races, a dying practice that loses money at most tracks. Decoupling would end that requirement.

While lawmakers stalled, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission has given voters the opportunity to decide this one-subject amendment.

Forty states ban dog racing. Florida is one of just six states where dog racing is legal and operational. A 2004 Florida Senate report says the Legislature first authorized wagering on dog races nearly 90 years ago. Times have changed dramatically. It’s way past time to end dog racing.

Animal welfare organizations have produced convincing data that too many dogs bred for racing are drugged, injured or dying. Why? So track operators can be forced to lose money running races that have lost popularity with a dog-loving public?

Animal welfare organizations have assured us there is a network to transition these docile greyhounds into loving homes across the nation. The phase-out date gives the state time to make sure alternative job training is provided to workers who will lose jobs when racing ends.

Track operators won’t be forced to lose money. Dogs get loving homes. Florida has tens of thousands of unfilled jobs today for those who no longer can do this line of work. A yes vote on Amendment 13 makes overwhelming sense.

Amendment 3: No

Amendment 3 purports to put into the hands of voters the right to decide, through citizen-initiated ballot measures, whether more casinos are allowed in Florida.

Two important principles we embrace seemingly come into conflict in this amendment: home rule and the right of residents to decide their destiny by voting. A deeper look at the amendment, however, shows the tenets of home rule and voters’ rights are in alignment, so we urge a “no” vote on this amendment heavily lobbied by Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Disney certainly has reasons to want to rein in where visitors’ entertainment dollars will go, and the tribe that operates a half-dozen Florida casinos, including one in Immokalee, has reasons to want to limit competition.

To us, home rule means it’s a local decision. Where this amendment fails is that it doesn’t give local control over whether there are casinos to local voters.

Take Lee County, for example. In 2012, Lee voters approved the addition of slot machines solely in Bonita Springs at the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track. Under Amendment 3, hundreds of thousands of voters’ signatures would be needed in the state to get a casino measure on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, which then needs 60 percent approval by Florida voters.

That means an army of Florida voters who may never traverse this huge state to set foot in Lee County would decide the issue for local residents.

We’re also concerned the ballot summary misleads voters. The summary only mentions “casino gambling,” which conjures up a Las Vegas-like image. Within the amendment, however, the definition expands to include card games and devices offering “electronic gambling … simulated gambling … video lottery … internet sweepstakes.”

A “no” vote means home rule by local voters.