Of the six statewide ballot propositions to be put before voters on Nov. 5, the casino expansion question potentially has the most immediate impact throughout New York.
Voters will the see following: "The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?"
Much attention has been given, rightly so, to the rosy language in the second half of this proposition. There's no question that state leaders in support of the measure went too far with this wording that implies benefits statewide benefits they can hardly guarantee.
Having said that, it's still important to weigh the ballot question on the legitimate merits. And given where New York and its neighboring states are today with respect to legalized gambling, it makes sense for voters to approve this constitutional amendment.
We don't believe the hype that some casino expansion supporters are pushing about the huge windfalls these operations can create for New York governments. New York cannot, and should not try, to make the gambling industry an economic engine.
But it's still reasonable to believe well-designed and well-run casino resorts can bring a net economic gain to the state.
More importantly, the failure to move ahead could do the opposite.
All around the Northeast, states have expanded casino gambling in recent years. And plenty of New Yorkers, especially those living near a state border, have been taking their discretionary dollars to these facilities and the communities that host them. All other things being equal, it makes sense for New York state to allow casinos within its borders in order to keep those revenues here.
The trends around the Northeast, and the changing attitudes of the electorate in New York, also point to an inevitability about casino expansion in this state. If it does not happen this year, it's going to happen eventually. And one strength of this proposed amendment is it allows the expansion in a limited, thoughtful manner.
By restraining the number of full-fledged casinos to seven, and spacing them out in regions throughout the state, this expansion proposal guards against the over-saturation of casino gambling facilities that can be seen in some other states. When that happens, the tourism impact of the facilities dwindles.
So as much as we continue to be irked by the way this ballot question is being asked, it's ultimately our conclusion that the right choice is to check the "yes" box on election day.