A big rise in eligible voters. Bigger casinos or more entertainment options at mothballed dog tracks.
That’s the profound effect we could see in South Florida from three newly approved constitutional amendments.
Here’s a look at the unintended consequences from some changes in Florida’s state constitution.
Greyhound tracks will cease operations no later than 2021.
Many Floridians voted for the change out of compassion for racing dogs. But now, some 3,700 greyhounds statewide will need to be adopted or could potentially be put down, said Hallandale Beach City Commissioner Michele Lazarow.
Dog track owners in Florida will be allowed to keep operating card rooms. They’ll be able to run slots in the case of dog tracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
So, another result could be that track owners will use their space to expand restaurants and nightlife, or even casino floor space.
In turn, the combination of anti-gambling expansion Amendment 3 and anti-dog racing Amendment 13 could mean already existing casinos offer more entertainment options for patrons.
There already is an example of that. The Magic City Casino in Miami had been a dog track until last year, when the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation gave it permission to convert to a.
The decision capped off a six-year legal fight between the casino and state regulators. With the jai-alai court taking up far less room than the track, Magic City Casino has by putting the jai-alai court where its entertainment venue, Stage 305, is now and then building a much bigger entertainment venue on top of the old dog track.
The Big Easy Casino, a Hallandale Beach dog track, would have to stop racing within three years. What might be in store? An option for the Big Easy could be to expand lucrative slot machines. According to its own website, the casino currently offers “more than 500” slot machines. The upper limit for perimutuel casinos under state law is 2,000, though none of them at this point have approached that limit.
Regardless of what happens to the greyhounds, with Amendment 3 in place, that greatly expanded casino would be one of the few places in Florida to offer casino gambling to tourists and Floridians, unless the voting base of Florida were to be somehow altered significantly.
The passage of Amendment 4 gave ex-felons the right to vote. So what happens when 1.4 million of them get back their right to vote? It’s very hard to say.
With so many new eligible voters and so few of them likely to vote, one expert said he expects the ratio of voters who cast ballots in 2020 versus the number of eligible voters in the state to go down, not up.
“The denominator just increases a lot,” said Michael Martinez, a professor of political science at the University of Florida who has done studies on how voting populations changed under laws allowing registration at department of motor vehicle offices. “Voting becomes a habit once you’ve done it, but they’ll be hard to get to register and once you get them registered, it will be hard to get them to vote.”
Martinez estimates that Amendment 4 will add a million eligible voters to Florida, removing ex-felons convicted of murder and sex offenses and those still serving probation. But he also points out that of that million, about 400,000 will be African-American men, who tend to vote Democratic.
“I think it may affect elections on Florida in the margins in the future,” Martinez said. “[Ex-felons] I would imagine are what we think of as low-propensity voters. They’re not people who would register to vote as soon as they turn 18, and they were not voting for a long time while serving their sentences. … By no means are we going to have a million new voters, but some of them will vote.”
Voters have demanded a statewide referendum for any expansion of casino gambling.
But what you may not know is that casino-style gambling is likely to be limited to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, plus Seminole Tribe casinos across the state.
Eight counties, including Palm Beach, already have voted for slot machines within their borders. The Florida Legislature tried to negotiate that expansion, but the expansion-ready Florida Senate has hit an impasse in the less gambling-friendly Florida House.
Now, even those tough negotiations are unlikely to occur again, meaning casino-style gambling is likely to be limited to places that already have it.
Staff writer Susannah Bryan contributed to this report.