As much as the United States Constitution is the most revered document in our nation, New York State's Constitution is an eclectic patchwork of inalienable rights mixed with whims of change. Voters will have an opportunity to ammend New York's Constitution on November 5th. The legislature has carefully selected where a few select words about casino gaming will go... in the same section that allows New Yorkers the right to peaceably assemble and get divorced.
That is in paragraph one of section nine of Article I of New York's Bill of Rights. Only in New York does the Bill of Rights include peacable assembly, divorce and gambling in the same legal language. I'm certain there is some historic evolution that ties it all together, but the footnotes don't quite explain it.
This change in our Constitution comes as a result of the negotiated gaming economic development act that Governor Cuomo negotiated with Native American leaders, local governments and the state legislature. In exchange for resolving long standing land claim and tax issues with the Oneida Nation and others, New York will create seven casino licenses.
The actual language change to the Constitution is brief: "and except casino gambling at no more than seven facilities as authorized and prescribed by the legislature." It's only seventeen words long. Those words and the 111 pages of new legislation to govern the operation of casino gaming could ultimately create a multi-billion dollar gambling industry for New York State.
It would be shocking if the measure fails on November 5th. The governor, the legislature, businesses and Native Americans which favor gaming are all counting on voters jumping on board. The very language of the proposition as you will read it on your ballot encourages you to pass it based on your faith that New York's government will execute the stated goals of more jobs, better education and lower local property taxes.
It reads: "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?"
If the language took a less rosy view of increased gaming in New York it may say: "for the legislated purposes of jeopardizing paychecks of gambling addicts, increasing odds of bankruptcy of the over extended and unemployed and over promising on efforts by New York legislators to reduce local property taxes."
The lesson for voters, please take a moment to be personally informed and consider whether casinos across the state will improve our culture, our communities and our future. Only then should you cast your vote either yes or no.
One can only guess that it was a less informed electorate that decided at one time to toss together the lottery and gaming with peacable assembly and divorce.
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