It seems that everyone has something to say about slot machines in Maryland, and the debate doesn't always bring out the best in people. Anne Arundel County Council Member Josh Cohen seemed to sum up the opposition to slots this way:
...Slots will do nothing to improve our quality of life. Their social ills are well-documented. They encourage gambling addiction and lead to more child neglect, divorce, bankruptcy and broken families, not to mention prostitution, illegal drug use and organized crime...
I'm a little surprised he didn't mention dandruff and bad breath.
Comptroller Peter Franchot led a small group of 40 or so slots opponents in a demonstration in front of his office. He referred to supporters of legalized slot machines as "forces of evil". A short distance away, horse-racing supporters demonstrated in support of slot machines saying they would save education, and, by the way, horse racing, and carrying signs saying that 'Franchot Must Go".
Down here on The Eastern Shore, the town fathers of Ocean City deplored slot machines, passing a resolution stating their steadfast opposition to slot machines on the Eastern Shore, conveniently forgetting that there are already plenty of them just up the road in Dover, Delaware.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun ran an article suggesting that the slots bill, as currently structured, might not be enough to really support the race tracks in Maryland. According to the O'Malley administration, the slots revenues would be divided this way:
- State Education Trust Fund -50%
- Slot operators - 30%
- Horse racing purses - 6%
- Local governments where slots are located - 5.5%
- State Lottery Commission (for admininstrative costs) - 5%
- Refurbishing race tracks (not to exceed $40 million) - 2.5%
- Minority and women-owned business investment fund - 1%
The Governor hsa proposed a constitutional amendment to authorize the slot machines at the five locations in Baltimore City and in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Allegheny and Worcester counties. He has also proposed legislation that would control the issuance of licenses and the allocation of the proceeds.
I guess I don't see slot machines as the source of all evil. Sure, they have their problems, but so does everything. The state already has the lottery, scratch-off tickets and keno but we still seem to be doing okay. As I've said before, I'd be happy if we could consider slots separately from the subsidy for horseracing. I think horseracing is fading industry. Subsidizing it won't get more people to the tracks, it will just make the participants a little richer.
And, as I've said before, I think auctioning off the licenses will help maximize revenue for the state and ensure that we're not just lining the pockets of the gambling industry. I'd like to see some of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Marylanders on slot machines elsewhere stay here.
Alright, I've said my piece, now to go collect my reward The Prince of Darkness - and no, I don't mean Dick Cheney.