Astounding Win Expands Gaming In Florida

In 2004, a coalition of national gaming enterprises that included Churchill Downs Incorporated, Isle of Capri Casinos, Magna Entertainment, along with several local pari-mutuel facilities undertook the daunting task of amending the Florida Constitution to legalize slot machines.

Florida’s anti-gaming hostility had consistently proven to be an insurmountable obstacle to any expansion of gaming activities in the state. In the recent past, Florida voters had soundly rejected ballot measures to expand gaming on three consecutive occasions. In the face of that deep-seated opposition, passing a constitutional amendment that would allow slot machines was widely thought to be impossible.

In addition to the widespread disdain for gambling fostered by the general public, we faced several formidable political opponents.  Jeb Bush, the hugely popular incumbent governor, was almost fanatical in his opposition to gaming. The governor was highly visible throughout the campaign.  He was the principle spokesman for his brother’s presidential re-election campaign in Florida and as he crisscrossed the state he never missed a chance to spread his anti-gaming message and specifically attacked the amendment.

The press was uniformly against the measure. We were routinely bombarded with scathing editorials antagonistic new stories. This relentless media animosity was being stoked by a coalition of the Christian right and conservative public officials. All efforts were lavishly funded by the deep pockets of the Seminole and Miccosukee Indian tribes who were fighting to preserve their monopoly on casino gaming.



The Right Team

After a rigorous assessment process, Totten Communications was selected over much larger and better-known firms to manage the campaign and direct all media efforts for this long shot ballot initiative. Not only did our company produce and place all paid advertising, but we also supervised daily campaign operations, handled all press relations, community outreach as well as organizing all live media events.

The Right Strategy

The fourth largest state in America, Florida’s nine media markets each has its flavor and distinct point of view.  After analyzing extensive public opinion research, we developed and delivered a compelling two-pronged message that was individually tailored to appeal within each region of the state.

Our objective was to move the media dialogue away from being a heated discussion about the perceived evils of gambling. We transformed the debate to one focused on the much more favorable issues of upholding the rights of residents to control activities in their community and increasing school funding without raising personal taxes.




The Right Result

The Longshot Wins At The Wire

Virtually every political pundit declared that we had no chance to win. Even the pari-mutuel trade papers were betting that Florida voters would hand the gaming industry in its fourth straight defeat.

They all agreed that everything was stacked against us.

The odds…too long.

The opponents… too powerful.

The state…too conservative.

But We Did Win!

Planning & Performance Pays Off!



“Totten Communications did a masterful job of coordinating all the members of our coalition, orchestrating all the various elements of our campaign and effectively delivering a clearly crafted message on a very complex issue.

“Glenn Totten is the unsung hero of this amazing victory.”

Alex Waldrop – Executive Vice President, Churchill Downs, Inc.