Passing tomorrow's proposal to expand gambling would lead to better outcomes than defeating it.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's maneuvers to craft the constitutional amendment and the law that implements it, and to settle what had been intractable disputes with upstate Indian tribes, have been masterful. A win could jump-start the upstate economy, send revenue to education and municipalities, and eventually bring casinos to our city.
If voters approve, as many as four casinos would be built upstate. Revenue would go to state coffers and municipalities. And a seven-year span would be provided before casinos could be licensed downstate.
The mere threat of the amendment's passage helped Cuomo come to terms with upstate tribes that had held back the state's cut of revenue from their casinos, and taxes from cigarette sales. In exchange, Cuomo promised the tribes casinos wouldn't be built near their existing ones.
Voting down an initiative to legalize gambling in a state that has so much gambling, from the lottery to racinos to Indian casinos, would be an empty gesture. For gambling opponents, it would be a worse than an empty gesture; if the amendment fails, six slot parlors would be created.
It's not that there isn't plenty to oppose in the initiative. The casinos may not provide much upstate revitalization. They will increase the number of problem gamblers. Prevention and treatment programs funded by casinos would help, but wouldn't totally prevent these problems.
And why should downstate residents wait seven years for a convenient casino? Major league casinos in and near New York City, which can grab the business of some of the world's richest tourists and business travelers, are a smart bet. And the inclusion in the referendum of rosy language stating approval would be "promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes" is cheating.
But this amendment, along with the streamlining and oversight of all the bets already being placed, and the expansion it would create, is important and overdue.
Vote yes on State Proposal No. 1.
STATE PROPOSAL NO. 1
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?
OTHER PROPOSALS ON TUESDAY'S BALLOT
The editorial board recommends these choices on five other state proposals:
STATE PROPOSAL No. 2: This would fix a technicality that prevents some disabled veterans from getting credit they deserve on civil service exams. Vote yes.
STATE PROPOSAL No. 3: This measure would continue the power of municipalities to exclude sewer projects from local debt limits. It makes sense. Vote yes.
STATE PROPOSAL No. 4: It's time to finally reverse clerical errors and settle decades-old land ownership disputes in a small Adirondacks lake community. Vote yes.
STATE PROPOSAL No. 5: This ill-conceived referendum would allow mining for the mineral wollastonite on 200 acres in an area of the Adirondacks that, since 1894, has been enshrined in the constitution as "forever wild." In return, NYCO Minerals Inc. would maintain 100 mining jobs and give the state about 1,500 acres to preserve. Voters have OK'd Adirondacks exceptions 20-odd times before for public benefit projects -- longer airport runways, an interstate highway. But this bid is mostly for the benefit of a commercial company and would set a dangerous precedent. Vote no.
STATE PROPOSAL No. 6: Real issues, wrong solution. This proposal would raise the retirement age to 80 for high-ranking state judges. Judges on our highest court, the Court of Appeals, must now retire at 70. This amendment would let them complete any 14-year term that began before they turned 70, or until the end of the year in which they turn 80. State Supreme Court judges can now work until age 76, as long as their mental and physical fitness is certified every two years. The proposal would let them extend their tenure until 80 as well.
Proponents say 70 and out is age discrimination and keeping experienced judges on the job longer would reduce case backlogs, especially in family courts. Neither argument is a good one. The age-80 limit is still arbitrary discrimination. There should be no age limit, although periodic certification of skills is a good idea. As for the case overload, Albany should document the extent of the logjam and create new judgeships where needed. This constitutional amendment isn't the answer. Vote no.