Editorial: Vote No On Question 7

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“Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate ‘table games’ as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George’s County?”

Translation from PoliSpeak: Approve the building of a sixth casino while checking the box to expand table games in existing casinos.

Measure 7 is a disgraceful piece of political theater, complete with a garbled script even by lobbying standards, Hoover Dam torrents of money—$56 million plus— pouring into grateful media outlets, and facile message/counter-message strategies assaulting the airwaves like sonic armies deployed by the Bizarro World’s casino industry marketers.

What started as a simple and acceptable expansion of table gaming (roulette and cards, etc), Measure 7 morphed into a behemoth transporter of disingenuous promises—the notion that yet another casino in Prince George’s County would shower Maryland education with money, create scores of ongoing new jobs and add fuel to the sputtering economic engines of the State.

MGM Resorts—who has its sights set on building a super-casino in Potomac City near Washington D.C. has plunked down $20+ million promoting the Measure 7 plan championed by Governor O’Malley and Speaker of the House Mike Miller. Another $30 million From Penn National Gaming warns Marylanders that Measure 7 is not a sound economic plan but you only have to find out that they are protecting their own interests in Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia while pretending to care for the economic health of Maryland. They pulled the same advertising anti-casino blitz in Ohio to protect their casino interests in Indiana.

Talk about stacking the deck!

With close to $290 million projected revenue from the percentage of gambling profits required by Maryland law to go toward education, the simple addition of another casino is easily made to look like a winner. The truth is not so simple—this would be money used to displace funds used in the education fund, not to add to it.  The additional revenue would go elsewhere in the Maryland budget. It would be possible to legislate additional money to the education fund from casino dollars, but we’d like, as they say, to see it in writing.

Maryland spending on education from state to county is determined by the Thornton Law (2002). Gambling revenue is not an addition to those funds—although it could be—rather, the revenue goes elsewhere through the General Fund to be used for other purposes not necessarily in the State’s best interest.

Five casinos were approved by referendum four years ago. Three are open.  All well and good: the people spoke. But then the real games began: tax concessions to other Maryland casinos to offset lost revenue with the proposal of building of sixth casino, special summer sessions in the legislature, ad wars, and the truth get buried in deep-pocketed spin cycles.

It is unfortunate that the O’Malley administration attached the sixth casino to a referendum that would have probably sailed through the election—the expansion of table gaming. To his credit, the Governor O’Malley has invested in schools, but using “schools and job” as a “do the right thing” imperative is less than forthright.

We don’t have a problem with expanding into table games for existing Maryland casinos. We just don’t like to be railroaded into a completely different deal run remotely by out-of-state casino interests and in-state former aides to Gov. O’Malley and Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, both hired by casino interest.

And finally, Measure 7 is a ‘fail’ as far as helping the state’s budget issues. Casinos will enjoy millions of dollars of special tax breaks that Maryland small businesses can not acquire, re-subsidize the horse-racing industry ($378 million), and could make Marylander taxpayers responsible for $300 million in transportation-related fees to the casinos.

Separate the two issues and let the people choose.

Vote NO on 7 and thank the gambling promoters for dropping $50 million into Maryland media. Show them how hard it is to draw to an inside straight.

Letters to Editor

  1. Jack Offett says:

    Clearly someone has not been to National Harbor to see why this makes so much sense and doesn’t understand that table games players are not the poor and the retired, but rather tend to by be upperwardly mobile and incredible support of the tourism industry.

    • mary brown says:

      I’m tired of politicians lying to us. Prince Georgians will experience an increase in traffic, higher auto and homeowner insurance rates, and increase crime with a lost of family structure. A retired friend secured a job a Maryland Live as a Director; salary 30,000 and says most people are part time. Schedules are often given and off days taken away at managements whim. They are indifferent to the staff and show little respect. Where are the $55,000 salaries? I received the Redskins stadium in my community and insurance fees in the community increased right away. When insurance companies were asked why “we were told there was increased contruction and more traffic coming into the community. Politicians didn’t tell us that and where was the insurance administration – granting permissions for these increases! If we keep quiet we’d be sitting ducks. Senator Mike Miller made it his daily plan to get gaming in PG – when he’s got plenty of room in Calvert County. This is his back door to extending a site in Rose Croft Raceway – a site his family sold to casino interest. Do ya see it coming?

  2. joe diamond says:

    + 1

    The National Harbor is the rare exception. It may draw locals from VA, D.C. or Southern MD but it is right on the Potomac River at the D.C. Beltway. The 95 north & south traffic will fill the place from the whole east coast (my guess). This will be “snowbird” money. The MD Comptroller can set up shop and get the cigaret & drug runners right in the parking lot.

    This is money that drives through the state all the time looking for a place to settle. If they would sell diesel fuel the state could also capture fuel sales tax from truckers……………….who would be glad to hit the tables while parked right there.

    The trick is holding the legislature by the nuts until their feet are near the fire to make sure the money gets to real state needs.

    Joe

  3. I’m opposed to the idea that the State of Maryland is subsidizing the gaming industry with tax breaks and incentives. Government should not be in the business of gaming. Worse, this sets a very poor example for our kids. If the surrounding States engage in gambling, that’s their business. Maryland can do better.

    • joe diamond says:

      Jay,
      I agree for a different reason. Maryland is already in the gambling business. The daily and weekly MD lottery is heavily subsidized by those who cannot afford to play. To also encourage businesses to compete with the MD business of gaming just dilutes the field. I think the National Harbor site is so good that MD could have competitive bidding for gaming operators. We don’t pay them….they pay us to operate and pay taxes. The place is an isolated enclave surrounded by suburbia but connected to the interstate highway system.

      I also agree with the example to kids part. There is a great difference between investing time and money in an enterprise you know and or control and the random win / loose world of gambling. “Playing the stock market” seems to be right in the middle and not a place for kids either.

      Joe

      • Lainey Harrison says:

        Dang Skippy Joe, The stock market is no place for kids. I didnt know you saw my boys college fund statements?!? Poor kids!

        • joe diamond says:

          Lainey,
          We gotta form a chapter of Overparenting Annonymous. Every time you get tempted to jamb some money into a college fund just call another member. They will come over with a bottle and talk you out of dumping your money in a college fund. There is not enough money in Chrisendom to pay future college expenses. The post graduation world is more scary.

          Today underemployed recent grads hope to pay undergraduate bills before retirement.

          Joe

  4. joe diamond says:

    AND,

    Measure 7 is not ready for prime time. In politics you have to throw out the baby and the bathwater. Don’t know how to fix or fund the schools but…..as numerous sources have presented…this is not the bill to do it.

    Sorry for the digression,

    Joe

  5. Homer Delaney says:

    Question 7? – A very interesting read

    BY — Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: http://www.nationalbcc.org. Email:halford@nationalbcc.org.

    See – http://tinyurl.com/8u86wh8

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