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Jax Daily Record Friday, May 20, 201612:00 PM EST

Financial impact of anti-casino initiative unclear

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Unsure about the measure’s effects, state economists said Thursday they cannot determine the financial impact of a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at making it harder to expand gambling in Florida.

The economists, serving as the state’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference, have held meetings recently to discuss the proposed amendment, which could go on the 2018 ballot.

The proposal, known as “Voter Control of Gambling in Florida,” would require future statewide votes to authorize casino-style games including blackjack, craps and roulette.

The amendment would take away the Legislature’s ability to approve casinos in Florida but would not affect tribal casino operations, which are regulated by federal law.

Economists evaluate proposed ballot initiatives to determine their potential financial impacts, with those analyses then forwarded by Attorney General Pam Bondi to the Florida Supreme Court.

Bondi on Thursday forwarded the analysis of the gambling initiative, with the economists not coming to a bottom-line conclusion.

“The amendment’s impact on state and local government revenues, if any, cannot be determined at this time because there are a number of uncertainties regarding the effect of the amendment on currently authorized gambling activities which have not been authorized pursuant to a citizens’ initiative,’’ the analysis said. “The primary uncertainty is whether the amendment’s effects will be prospective only or also retrospective. In this context, the term ‘prospective’ means that the casino gambling activities that have been authorized prior to the effective date of the amendment will not be affected. The term ‘retrospective’ means that casino gambling activities authorized at the time the amendment is adopted will have to cease unless they have been authorized pursuant to a citizens’ initiative.”

Backers of the proposed amendment have submitted 73,810 valid petition signatures, which is enough to trigger a Supreme Court review of the initiative.

A political committee known as “Voters in Charge,” which is backed by the anti-gambling group No Casinos Inc., is spearheading the proposal.

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