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A losing bet

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Public officials who understand effective governance normally pursue policies that seek to protect those who are vulnerable from being exploited by others for financial gain.

But a referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot advocates just the opposite: More opportunities to enslave victims into greater debt would be increased, with the major beneficiary being the state government. In the 21st century, this sentiment is simply unacceptable.

The measure asks voters if the New York State Constitution should be amended to allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven new casinos. Approving this proposal would open the floodgates of despair for many people already reeling under extraordinary economic stresses.

Don’t look to the government, however, to provide an objective assessment of the consequences of this measure. State officials have dressed up this issue in its Sunday best to make it appear as though happy days would be here again. And they ignored the plight of victims of casinos.

Here is how the referendum was originally worded: “The purpose of the proposed amendment to Section 9 of Article 1 of the Constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos. If approved, the amendment would permit commercial casino gambling in New York State.”

But apparently, sticking to the facts didn’t suit Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. They had to find a way to promote the measure’s approval, even though the referendum should refrain from any advocacy.

Here is the revised language of the proposed amendment: “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?”

Now who could possibly oppose the “legislated purposes” of increased employment opportunities, more money for schools and paying less in property taxes? It seems like a no-brainer, so why even bother voting?

Brooklyn lawyer Eric Snyder mounted a challenge to the flowery language proposed for this year’s ballots in court. But acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin ruled that Mr. Snyder filed his lawsuit too late and that he lacked legal standing for such action. Mr. Snyder opted not to appeal the decision.

If state officials hope to attract numerous big spenders to local casinos, they must ask themselves an important question: Why can’t they rely on the abundant resources that already exist to entice tourists?

New York City is one of the most intriguing places in the world to visit. And other regions of the state, including Northern New York, offer everything that tourists could possibly want.

What the referendum ignores is that the gusher of cash into state coffers will to a large extent come from those who can least afford it. Habitual gamblers will trade their hard-earned wages for chips and then deplete their stacks as they chase the empty dream of hitting it big. The promise of easy winnings unfortunately appeals to many who will place gambling their wages ahead of buying food for the family.

Trying to build a robust economy on the addictive lure of luck is wrong. State officials must find alternate ways to market New York’s assets and bring in tourist dollars. On Election Day, voters must send a message of strong disapproval for this cynical move by denying the proposed amendment on casinos.

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