OUR VIEW: Casinos and the Constitution

By Daily News • Last Updated 11:48 am on Thursday, June 21, 2012

There’s a Citizens for Michigan Jobs petition campaign to get a proposal on the November ballot amending Michigan’s Constitution allowing eight new private casinos. It would be a statewide vote amending the constitution to specify new casinos to be located in designated communities. This would be in addition to the 22 Indian casinos already operating and the three private casinos in Detroit.

New casino proponents maintain that another amendment to the Constitution would bring more money for schools, roads, police and local government. Their specific proposal would add casinos in or near Grand Rapids, Cadillac, Dewitt, Clinton Township, Romulus, Birch Run and Detroit. Opponents of the proposal argue that the Constitutional amendment would usurp the rights of citizens living in the targeted communities to vote up or down on casinos in their cities.

There are plenty of opinions for and against expanding casinos in Michigan. No doubt new business brings new jobs. Still, there is also an limit to how many such operations can thrive, especially in unusual and historically challenging economic times.

Add to that, this proposal changes the Constitution to allow new casinos in eight specific locations, overriding the desires of the citizens. Nevertheless, competing interests are expected to spend upward of $100 million to settle the issue. What if those dollars were spent to help our truly needy neighbors?

We question the net returns extensive casino gambling brings to our society. Casino operators tout the chance of big returns; a totally different scenario would be the steady drain on paychecks from the siren call of closer casinos and more of them.

If more jobs bringing better paychecks are buying food, housing and health care and recreation for the majority of our citizens, that’s good. If too much money is gambled away for that one big chance, and heightened civil security challenges are a result, we probably all lose. The ultimate cost to society is far more difficult to calculate than the proposed state income from gambling institutions.

A gnarlier situation these days is the number of special causes petitioning for a place on the ballot, ostensibly to change Michigan’s Constitution. We elect legislators to represent us in the management of government affairs. We are undoubtedly traveling down a dangerous road if we allow messing around with the Constitution so that special interests can have their way on narrowly defined issues in specifically designated locations.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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