Constitutional Ideals Undergird Opposition to Casino Amendment

Many are making primarily economic arguments against the Casino Amendment, claiming that the state could get a better deal with competitive bidding. While I recognize the utility and pragmatism of such a tactic, I think the case for opposing a Casino Amendment offered by Brian Casey, owner of the Oak Hill Tavern in North Kingstown, is more important.

Our state constitution, adopted in 1842, contains the words of our most cherished and fundamental rights: freedom of speech, of religion, of the press, of assembly, and the rights of the accused. As we go about our daily business, we don’t stop to reflect upon what living in a free society truly means.
Stop for a moment and consider the sacrifice and bravery of [Nathanael] Greene, [Thomas William] Dorr and thousands upon thousands of other Rhode Islanders who have, over the course of our history, answered the call of duty — many to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Now think of today, as we bear witness to such tawdry treatment of our state constitution. Our history and our heroes are dishonored by frivolously amending our constitution by cramming it with language providing for a no-bid casino deal for Harrah’s gambling company.
Do we wish to honor our state constitution, our freedoms and our heroes by stuffing this precious and most sacred document with a no-bid casino deal? Are we to ask future generations to defend our freedoms of speech, religion, press and a Harrah’s casino?
. . . This document, our constitution, is the repository of the common good, not the cesspool of special interests. Honor our constitution, honor our heroes, honor liberty and freedom. Do not defile our sacred document. Let us respect our state and ourselves. {Emphasis mine}.

Casey is the owner of a business that could be negatively affected by the competition of a large casino, so there can be little doubt that he is at least partially motivated by his own economic self-interest. Nonetheless, his idealistic and proper notion of what our State Constitution should and shouldn’t be is the most important argument to be made in this debate.

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