The Miami Dolphins are encouraging fans to protect their right to legally bet on sports by voting no on an amendment to the Florida constitution that aims to increase the threshold required to expand gambling, including sports betting, in the Sunshine State.
Amendment 3 would strip the legislature of the power to expand gambling, including sports betting, and instead would require a voter referendum. Opponents of the amendment say it would "potentially close the door" on sports betting legalization in the state.
The Dolphins sent out a tweet Monday highlighting their concerns over Amendment 3, claiming that if the legislation passes, it "would effectively block any chance for sports betting in Florida." The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also lobbied against the amendment, according to Floridapolitics.com.
Sportsbook operators DraftKings and FanDuel are opposing the amendment.
"Amendment 3 was written to try to deceive you," FanDuel wrote in a grassroots email campaign to Floridians. "... It pretends to give voters more power, but the reality is it seeks to make it impossible to bring sports betting to Florida and makes it more difficult to protect your right to play fantasy sports. States across the country are racing to legalize sports betting, but Amendment 3 would stop any chance of bringing sports betting to Florida dead in its tracks."
Supporters of the amendment, which include Hard Rock International, which purchased the naming rights to the Dolphins stadium in 2016, and Disney, the parent company of ESPN, say the legislation would simply give voters the right to decide on gambling expansion.
"Sports wagering would be subject to a statewide referendum," said John Sowinski, chairman of political committee Voters in Charge. "But if it's as popular as proponents say that it is, why are they afraid to give voters a say on the matter?"
The NFL has been a staunch opponent of sports betting for decades but recently adjusted its policies after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal statute in May that opened a path for states to authorize legal sports betting. Since the ruling, sportsbooks have opened in Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico and West Virginia.
Florida is not one of several states to have already introduced legislation to legalize sports betting, but a source familiar with the state's legislature says it's definitely something that would be considered in 2019.
With other sports leagues and franchises positioning themselves for the continued expansion of sports betting, time is a factor in the Dolphins' and Buccaneers' opposition to Amendment 3.
The voter referendum process generally takes two years. An issue must receive at least 766,200 signatures to be put on the ballot. Any voter referendum in Florida requires 60 percent approval. Both can be difficult hurdles to overcome. Gambling amendments have been put up for a vote five times in Florida, with two passing.
Hard Rock International, which operates Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, reportedly paid $250 million for the naming rights to the Dolphins' stadium in August of 2016.
The Dolphins said they said they had no further comment and pointed to the sports betting tweet.
"Hard Rock and the Miami Dolphins have a great relationship, and this difference of opinion is not going to come between them," a spokesman for Hard Rock said in a statement to ESPN.