Disney and Seminoles Paid $10 Million to Back Amendment 3

Disney Seminole Tribes Amendment 3 Payouts

Disney wants to limit gambling expansion to maintain Florida’s family-friendly tourism industry.

Disney Worldwide Services and the Seminole Tribe of Florida each spent $5 million apiece in March 2018 alone to support a casino referendum which would make it harder to expand any form of gambling in Florida. Disney now has paid $9.655 million towards the gambling amendement, while the Seminoles have spent $6.775 million to push the ballot initiative.

The two group have contributed to a political action committee, Voters in Charge, which is pushing for a Florida constitutional amendment that would make it impossible to expand gambling without a statewide vote. Voters in Charge collected the necessary signatures in a petition drive to get the referendum on the November 2018 ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment will be on the ballot as Amendment 3, which needs a 60% approval rate in order to change the Florida Constitution. Amendment 3 proposes to give Florida voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.”

Amendment to Limit Gambling Expansion

Amendment 3 therefore takes the power to expand gambling out of the hands of the Florida governor or the Florida state legislature. More importantly for the Seminoles and the Disney Company, the bill would take gambling expansion out of county-level office holders.

In the past several years, 8 Florida counties have approved gambling expansion deals. In those cases, local racetracks have been given the right to place gaming machines in their facilities in attempts to help the dog racing industry of Florida and prop-up local businesses. Those decisions led to lawsuits by the Florida Seminole Tribe, which long has had a monopoly on certain forms of gambling under its gaming compact with the State of Florida.

Seminoles Florida Gaming Compact

The unfortunate fact for the Seminoles is a 5-year gaming compact ended in 2015. While the tribe continues to pay taxes on the 2010 Seminole-Florida gaming compact for the 7 land-based casinos it owns in the state, the tribe and the state have been unable to agree on a new deal. Gov. Rick Scott’s negotiators had a deal with the Seminoles in December 2015 that would have paid the state $3 billion over the first 7 years of a 20-year gaming compact, but the Florida legislature did not pass the bill.

Since then, the tribe has negotiated with state lawmakers, led by State Sen. Bill Galvano, but no resolution to the stalemate has occurred. Despite several near-misses, the many complications involving racetrack gaming machines, electronic roulette, and player-banked games have made it impossible for Galvano and allies to put together a consensus in the Florida legislature.

Why the Seminole Tribes Support Amendment 3

In April 2018, it appeared that Florida’s lawmakers might call a special session to pass a new gaming compact. Eventually, the leaders in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives declined to open a special session, for fear that the governor or other leaders would open up debate on other issues, including gun control. That left the state and tribe at an impasse.

The Seminoles might have sensed that an impasse would happen — or else they hedged their bets with the statewide referendum. As the legislature’s leaders negotiated among themselves about the special session, the Seminoles were pouring $5 million in cash to Voters in Charge. Exasperated by a stalled 3-year negotiation, the Seminoles put their faith in Amendment 3, which would solve the problem of gambling expansion in one vote.

Why Disney Supports Amendment 3

The Disney Company has much different interests than the Seminoles. While the Seminole Tribe wants to protect its gaming monopoly in Florida, Disney wants to stop any further expansion of gambling in the state. Disney, with the world’s most famous theme park and cultural attraction at Disneyworld in Orlando, wants Florida tourism to be based on family-friendly themes.

Disney believes that expansive land-based casino gambling in South Florida and elsewhere would do harm to the traditional family-friendly tourism industry of Florida, of which Disneyworld is a huge part. Thus, a Disney Company subdivision, Disney Worldwide Services, has paid $10 million in the Amendment 3 initiative.