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This is the truth behind a yes or no vote for amendment 3 and how both political campaigns for the Florida ballot amendment are lying to you.

Amendment 3 will be on our Florida ballots this 2018 election season. The amendment basically says if approved, any all new future casino development would have to be approved by voters through a statewide ballot vs leaving it in the hands of the Florida legislature which is how it currently is. Now on the surface this sounds like an absolute yes! Who in their right mind would think not allowing the people to decide is a bad thing? Unfortunately, this amendment really isn't about casino approval from voters vs. the legislation. This amendment is actually about whether we believe in free enterprise and the ability for businesses to compete in an equal fair market or if we support monopolies. Let me explain.

The crafty wording of the amendment makes it sound like the people are in control if you vote yes. To be fair, this is not false. However, by voting yes we take local control away from the people and make what should be a local countywide vote a statewide issue. What this means is if approved, any expansion of casinos in Broward county would have to be approved through a statewide ballot. The criteria to get on the ballot is quite extensive and involves some math, so to spare you the head scratching and calculator just know for example to get on the ballot for a local issue, we need to campaign the whole state and hope areas such as Jacksonville, Ft. Myers, Ocala, Panama City, etc. care enough about what is happening in Broward County. That paired with a large number of voters statewide to sign a petition would take a near miracle to get anything anywhere in the state approved. It is in this fact why Disney and the Seminole Tribe are the two top contributors to this campaign for a 'Yes' vote.

Neither Disney or the Seminole Tribe want this amendment to fail. For Disney, the possibility of any casino development in the Orlando area arguably taints their 'family' brand, but more importantly creates additional competition that they absolutely do not want. For the Seminole Tribe it is a similar story. Currently the Tribe operates seven casinos across the state on their reservations with exclusive rights to table games through the compact with the state that was initiated by then Republican Charlie Crist in 2010 and recently renewed by sitting governor Rick Scott. It should be known that many members of the Tribe have supported the Florida Republican party during the party's control in Florida. They also have pressed on their employees of their various casino properties as well as vendors to support the Republicans. With all that said, the core of a 'Yes' vote for the Tribe is simple. By voting 'Yes', you practically cement their monopoly of gaming facilities statewide. A 'Yes' measure is also being supported but the League of Women's Voters in Florida, Miami Herald, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and surprisingly, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. It all comes down to squashing out competition which is why both Disney and the Tribe have poured in a near combined amount of $40 million vs. the opposition that has only put in close to $1 million.

Now the opposition is mainly companies looking for an opportunity to fairly compete against the gaming monopoly in Florida that is the Seminole Tribe. The main contributor to date has been West Flagler Associates, LTD which owns Magic City Casino and Flagler Greyhound Track. Following them has been Hialeah Park. All companies local to South Florida looking to better their properties, increase tourism and amenities. A 'No' vote makes the possibility of fair and equal competition more viable for any company with the resources to properly compete. More importantly though, a 'No' puts casino development and expansion in the hands of local voters who should have sole say in what does and does not happen in their community. Other supporters of a 'No' initiative include the Sun-Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, American Legion of Florida, Tampa Bay Times, the Tallahassee Democrat, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and surprisingly the Miami Dolphins who play at the now Hard Rock Stadium. Note the Seminole Tribe owns the Hard Rock brand.

So I opened saying that both campaigns for and against amendment 3 are lying to us and this is why. The campaign pushing for a 'Yes' is heavily advertising how we are putting the power back in the hands of the people. The lie is that by voting 'Yes' we actually take the power away from the people because it is near impossible to gather the amount needed to make real change. The campaign pushing for a 'No' is riding very heavy on a message saying if you vote 'Yes' you are hurting education and we need to vote 'No' for the children. I honestly do not know why they took that route and am very curious if there is actually any validity to that claim. Why they didn't instead promote pushing for local control, free enterprise (i.e. pro-capitalism which doesn't get more American than that) and big business trying to have a monopoly on the industry I fail to understand. Those reasons alone are enough to get many people out and vote 'No'.

The fact is this, if you are the type that is totally anti-casino then you should totally vote 'Yes'. If you are a member of the Seminole Tribe or have a vast amount of stock in Disney, vote 'Yes'. If you vote 'No', you will make opportunity attainable. If existing local casinos like the Isle, Dania Casino, Magic City, etc are offered equal gaming right to the what the Seminole Tribe has, those properties can invest more capital into their business, expand, increase amenities for locals and tourists, create more jobs and a better local economy. Would the Tribe hurt, I think it is safe to say they would take a hit, but they will still thrive and what we will find ourselves in here in South Florida is a fair, equal, competitive market that helps our local economy as a whole. I will be voting 'No'. I hope you do too.

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