Michigan voters should put their money on gambling. On Feb. 26, the Board of State Canvassers approved petitions for two ballot initiatives to increase the number of casinos allowed in the state. But this is just the first step: More than 300,000 voter signatures are required for each initiative before either one can even be put on this November’s ballot. Increased gambling has the potential help boost the state’s economy by creating jobs and revenue that could be used to fund important endeavors like the Michigan Promise Scholarship. Voters should overlook outdated moral prejudices and embrace these proposals.

State law requires that any growth of gambling must be passed in both a statewide and local vote. According to a Feb. 26 Detroit News report, the first proposal, backed by the Michigan is Yours organization, authorizes seven new casinos located in Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Muskegon and Romulus and puts slot machines at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The second, which is sponsored by Racing to Save Michigan, permits eight new casinos statewide, five of which would be at Michigan horse racing tracks. There are currently 22 casinos in Michigan.

Adoption of these proposals would result in substantial economic benefits for Michigan. The state could collect wagering taxes — set at 19 percent in the Michigan Is Yours proposal — that could be used to supplement the current state budget and pay for vital programs. The proposal suggests using the revenue to pay for the recently cut Michigan Promise Scholarship, advertise tourism in Michigan and help local governments where the new casinos are built. Considering the impact the recession has had on the state, additional funds from any source must be readily welcomed.

Efforts to increase gambling often face moralistic opposition. But morality is subjective. And it isn’t the place of one group of people to press their ideas about morality on society as a whole. It’s certainly not the place of the state to determine what behavior is or isn’t moral. And legislation certainly shouldn’t be tailored or limited to a specific set of beliefs. Moral battles don’t have a place in the current debate, especially considering the potential economic benefits these initiatives could provide.

But if these proposals are to become law, it is important that they become well-written laws. Ballot initiatives have often included nebulous wording that has led to confusion in regards to their implementation. For instance, the incomplete wording of the November 2008 ballot initiative that legalized the use of medical marijuana in the state didn’t fully define the the logistics of legalization. To make the initiative a viable effort to boost Michigan’s economy, its language must be clearly codified and avoid the plague of logistical problems with its potential passage.

In Michigan’s current financial climate, any potential sources of economic respite must be explored. The two proposals to expand the gaming industry in Michigan should be supported by voters and put on the ballot this November.

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