The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning sports gambling in most states on Monday, opening the door for lawmakers in Florida and other states to legalize sports betting.Whether state lawmakers will move to legalize it in Florida, however, is an open question.
TALLAHASSEE – Florida governor candidates’ views on legalizing sports gambling vary widely, ranging from outright opposition to vocal encouragement.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision released Monday knocked down a law prohibiting betting on sports, leaving it to the states to decide whether to ban the practice. But the next legislative session isn’t scheduled until next year, when a new slate of lawmakers and governor will be in place, giving the incoming governor great influence on the direction Florida takes.
Democratic candidates Gwen Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, and Chris King, a Winter Park real estate executive, are opposed to legalizing sports betting, or even expanding any other form of gambling.
"Gwen is against expanding gambling in Florida," said Graham spokesman Matt Harringer.
A measure that will appear on the ballot as Amendment 3 would take decisions regarding future expansions of casino gambling out of the Legislature’s hands and put them before voters in referendums.
It’s unclear if the amendment, which requires 60 percent of the vote to pass, would apply to sports gambling, but King made it clear he supports the amendment and opposes any new gambling.
“Chris doesn’t believe Florida should be turned into a casino and opposes expanding gambling in the state –– including sports betting,” King spokesman Avery Jaffe said. “He supports Amendment 3 to let voters decide on these issues and not politicians."
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Bartow Republican, hailed the court’s decision as a victory for state’s rights but is still opposed to legalizing sports gambling.
“I’ve always believed we must protect our reputation as a world-class, family-friendly destination,” Putnam said. “The U.S. Supreme Court ruling is a win for states’ rights, and Floridians will have a chance this November to determine the future of gambling in Florida.”
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, didn’t take a clear-cut position but said any new revenues from taxing sports bets should go to schools.
“We have to make sure all stakeholders are a part of those discussions next year during session, and public education must be a beneficiary of the potential new revenue,” Gillum said. “Our schools are chronically underfunded and our teachers are criminally underpaid."
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is the only candidate to come out vocally in favor of legalization.
“Now that the US Supreme Court has validated forms of sports betting, it’s incumbent on states to have consumer protection laws in place and properly collect our fair revenue share,” Levine said. “With economists forecasting that Florida could see hundreds of millions in tax revenue, we must pass the necessary laws to ensure that the activity that already occurs and exists generates revenues we can invest in our public education system. This is revenue that should be used to only supplement, not supplant education funding––Floridians have had enough of the shell games with their tax dollars.”
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, running against Putnam in the GOP primary, was the only candidate whose campaign did not respond to requests from the Orlando Sentinel.
DeSantis’ political committee has received $100,000 from Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, owners of several Las Vegas casinos. Sheldon Adelson, another casino magnate and big-money GOP donor, is a member of his finance team, although he hasn’t personally donated to his campaign or committee.
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