Constitutions And Casinos

I’ve previously noted my opposition to Issue 3, which would amend the Ohio Constitution to allow casinos to be built in four Ohio cities. One reason for my opposition is that I think the Ohio Constitution should be a constitution, not a statute or a detailed laundry list.  In my view, constitutions should establish broad approaches, goals, aspirations, and prohibitions, and leave the minutiae to be filled in by future legislatures and executives.  The federal Constitution is a good example.  Constitutional provisions like the Supremacy Clause and the Commerce Clause leave lots of room for interpretation.  A good constitution provides a framework that describes how the process of government should work, yet is flexible enough to deal with changing technologies and concepts.  It is the difference between a document that says that the legislature has the power to levy taxes and one that says that all horses used for commercial purposes will be taxed at one ha’penny per biennium.  The former approach has helped to guide more than 200 years of constitutional democracy; the latter would need to be amended repeatedly. 

If you read the text of Issue 3 — and it is available, in PDF format, on the website of the Ohio Ballot Board under the heading Issue 3 — you will see that it is inconsistent with the foregoing notion of what a constitution should be.  Indeed, Issue 3 is extraordinarily detailed.  It is more than five pages long.  It specifies which taxes can be levied on the casinos, at what percentage, and how the funds generated by those taxes will be distributed.  It states the license fee to be charged and how the proceeds of the license fee are to be used.  It specifies that one (and one) casino may be created in each of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Toledo, and it even specifies the particular properties, identified by their individual tax parcel numbers, on which the four casinos may be developed.

In my view, therefore, Issue 3 is not a constitutional amendment.  A real constitutional amendment on the topic might state, for example, that casino gambling is legal in Ohio and is subject to regulation and taxation by the General Assembly, with the proceeds of such taxes and regulations being distributed as directed by the General Assembly.  Issue 3, in contrast, is legislation that is being offered as a constitutional amendment only because, if it is incorporated into the Ohio Constitution, it could not be overridden by the Ohio General Assembly and could only be modified by another constitutional amendment.

I don’t think casino gambling is a good idea as a matter of social policy, but I also am opposed to junking up the Ohio Constitution with a bunch of detailed regulatory language that could soon be outdated and anachronistic.  I’m against Issue 3 for that reason as well.

2 thoughts on “Constitutions And Casinos

  1. Pingback: Buckeye State Bulls-Eye « Webner House

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