Walt Disney Company Lobbying Against Gaming Expansion in Florida

Posted on: May 11, 2017, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: May 11, 2017, 12:56h.

The Walt Disney Company has donated $250,000 to lobbying efforts that are working to stop the potential spread of casinos in Florida.

Walt Disney Florida lobbying Seminole casino
The Walt Disney Company won’t be taking the hand of the casino industry anytime soon, as the world’s second largest media entity. (Image: Disney)

Voters in Charge is the beneficiary of the donation, which officially came from Disney Worldwide Services, a subsidiary of the mass media and entertainment conglomerate. The Tallahassee-based lobbying firm is working to make sure voters, not politicians, decide whether to expand gambling in the Sunshine State.

Through campaign documents filed with the state, it was revealed that Voters in Charge received a check from Disney on April 3 for a quarter of a million dollars.

Disney Worldwide is headquartered in California, but donated from its Lake Buena Vista, Florida, address, the home of Disney World.

Voters in Charge and No Casinos in Florida are working together to a place a gambling amendment on the 2018 ballot that would essentially freeze ongoing casino expansion talks in the capital. To put gambling in election booths, the groups will need to obtain 100,000 valid signed petitions.

“For far too long, gambling interests have flooded Florida’s political system with campaign contributions and lobbyists,” the lobbyist organization ironically explains on its Voters in Charge website. “It is time to restore the time-honored standard of requiring voter approval for any casino gambling.”

Unresolved Matters

The state’s gaming compact with the powerful Seminole Tribe expired in 2015. In the interim, the Native American group has continued operations at its six casinos as normal, and maintained its deliverance of revenue sharing checks to Tallahassee.

Legally speaking, however, the tribe is running unlawful gambling venues, as Class III gaming like slots and table games require a compact in Florida. A new arrangement must be reached, but the two chambers in the state legislature differ greatly on how to proceed.

Two polarizing pieces of legislation considered in the Florida Legislature in 2017 led to impasse. The Senate and House are now adjourned for the year.

Florida takes in about $20 million each month from the Seminoles’ gaming profits. With the tribe’s compact shelved for another year, it’s unclear if those payments will continue.

Favoring the House

Senate Bill 8 was the upper chamber’s gaming expansion measure. It motioned to allow slots at dog and horse racetracks across the state, as well as in the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward. It would have also potentially authorized two Las Vegas-style casinos to be built in South Florida.

On the contrary, House Bill 7037 sought to essentially keep gaming in its current form, and grant the Seminoles the right to retain their monopoly on blackjack. In exchange, the tribe needed to guarantee $3 billion in payments to the state over the next seven years. No new slots or casino expansion would have been permitted under the legislation.

Voters in Charge and No Casinos in Florida prefer that Sunshine State residents dictate gaming changes, but if politicians have the final say, they back the gaming bill in the House.

A recent poll found that just eight percent of likely voters in Florida support gambling expansion.