Ballot initiatives have been a feature of Maine politics and governing for more than 100 years. The first statewide initiative was approved by voters in 1911. Measures to address various energy-related advocacy missions marked the 1970s and 1980s. And in 1998, Maine voters went to the polls to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The 21st century has seen dozens of ballot measures put to the voters of Maine. Two times, our electorate has been asked whether Mainers want their state to authorize casino gaming. Two times, the answer has been a very robust “yes.”

Their wisdom has borne real fruit for our Maine economy: more than $500 million in new state tax revenues since 2005, scads of good jobs created, and many state programs and priorities getting crucial financial support. Tourism accounts for nearly one out of every six jobs in Maine. Our voters have made the connection between this important industry and the role year-round attractions such as casino gaming can play. The outsized success of Hollywood Casino in Bangor and the Oxford Casino is proof.

Now Maine has an opportunity to strategically grow its gaming industry by authorizing a third gaming venue in York County. Voters have an opportunity to once again say “yes” to smart job growth and economic expansion. And on Nov. 7, they should do just that.

Legislators have chosen for years to ignore the opportunity that casino gaming presents – creating no alternative mechanism for authorizing new gaming facilities.

The ballot initiative process is the people’s process – and the people of Maine are smart enough to know the gaming industry has been very good for all of us.

Shawn Scott initiated the process in 2003, which ultimately created Bangor’s casino, invested heavily at great risk in getting it approved and then brought in one of the premier gaming brands and operators to ensure its success.

Now he and his company are positioned to spend nearly $200 million in capital investment by developing a gaming and entertainment venue in York County – nearly doubling the annual tax revenues from Maine casino gaming and creating more than 2,000 permanent jobs.

Growing this important segment of Maine’s tourism industry is not only vital for the schools, college scholarships, veterans and senior programs, and Native American tribes it will support – it also is a strong and necessary competitive move in the face of a major threat.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has a stated goal of capturing $1 billion in casino revenue from neighboring states.

The coming Wynn Boston Harbor resort casino is barely 65 miles from York County. It isn’t hard to do that math. By doing nothing – as the Legislature has done – we will lose Maine dollars and lose tourist visits to a state that is still very new to a business that we’ve been in for 12 years.

Fortunately, the people’s process is once again well under way, and on Nov. 7 voters can once again show Maine legislators how to be proactive and grow our economy.

Mr. Scott is indeed a worldly businessman with interests near and far. But make no mistake – his stakeholder interests in Maine and his affection and affinity for this great state go back decades.

Who would ever balk at a company such as General Dynamics, the parent company of Bath Iron Works, if it sought to make new investment and create business expansion in Bath, Maine?

How would a foreign-owned entity like Hannaford Bros. react if it were dismissed as an “outsider” despite its long-held commitment to this state?

Is the medical supply giant McKesson – another top company here – somehow lesser in the eyes of Mainers because it is based in Irving, Texas?

The largest vocal opponent to this ballot initiative is the Kentucky-based Oxford Casino and Hotel.

This opponent is nothing more than a private company acting in its best interests to preserve its own profits through an early attempt to limit competition by a future York County casino.

But Question 1 is really quite simple: Do we believe in an industry that has brought so much to Maine already? Are we savvy enough to be strong and remain competitive against new threats?

And do we want a cascade of new funding – $250 million over five years – to support local tax relief, education, veterans, seniors, harness racing, agriculture and other priorities?

It’s the people’s process that has given us this opportunity. And the people of Maine really know what’s best for them.