DeSantis Backed by Adelson, Racetracks in Florida Governor Race as Gambling Industry Weighs Into Amendment 3

Posted on: October 2, 2018, 09:30h. 

Last updated on: October 2, 2018, 09:59h.

Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis has received generous campaign donations from the gambling industry but remains tight-lipped about his stance on gambling expansion in the state, the Naples Daily News reports.

Ron DeSantis
Polarizing GOP candidate Ron DeSantis initially refused to be drawn on gambling and Amendment 3, although later he appeared to proffer his opposition to the ballot measure, while simultaneously coming out against gambling expansion. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated press)

Most of those donations come from sections of the gambling industry that specifically oppose Amendment 3, a ballot measure that would give voters the ultimate say on any future gambling expansion in the state.

At a campaign stop last week, Trump acolyte DeSantis declined to answer questions from the press on the expansion of gambling in Florida and whether or not he supported Amendment 3.

But just hours later, he released an official statement, declaring he believed that “basic policy matters should be resolved via the normal legislative process and not be placed in the constitution.”

But he qualified this by stating that “Florida must remain a family-friendly state,” adding that he did not “advocate for the expansion of gambling.”

Nervous Lawmakers  

Lawmakers have warned that Amendment 3, if passed, would nullify the legislature’s bargaining power in negotiations with the Seminole tribe in future revenue-share negotiations, effectively handing the tribe a monopoly on casino gambling in the state.

Amendment 3 would be a disaster for Florida’s parimutuel operators, who have long been pushing for the right to offer slots and to “decouple” their gaming interests from mandatory dog-races that many consider to be unprofitable.

Various parimutuel tracks have contributed to the DeSantis campaign, but the lion’s share of some $800,000 donated by gaming interests comes from powerful out-of-state operators with designs on Florida.

These include Phil Ruffin, who owns Treasure Island in Las Vegas, Lorenzo Ferttita of Station Casinos, and Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO LVS Corp.

Adelson Eyes Still on Florida

Republican mega-donor Adelson has contributed more than $250,00 to the DeSantis juggernaut. The casino mogul has for long eyed Florida as a possible location for one of his destination resorts. Eight years ago, he offered similar patronage to the election campaign of outgoing governor Rick Scott, to no avail.

But Amendment 3 has heavyweight supporters too. As well as the powerful Seminole tribe, which owns and operates the Hard Rock brand of casinos, the Disney Corporation has plowed millions into the measure.

Disney wants to remain the biggest entertainment draw Florida has to offer and has long been opposed to gambling expansion in the Sunshine State. The company believes the best way to maintain the status quo is to take the power out of the hands of politicians.

A poll published this week by the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows that a majority of 54 percent favor voting yes to Amendment 3, with 28 against and 18 percent undecided.