Maryland Question 7 (Gaming Expansion Referendum): Help me decide.

Maryland’s Question 7 has been the most hotly debated referendum on the ballot this election cycle. Its proponents and opponents both have deep pockets and have been campaigning their respective cases extremely hard with a slew of radio, TV, and newspaper ads. The question on the ballot is written as such:

There have been so much misinformation and half-truths from both sides that it’s been damn near impossible for me to research it properly. This article from the Washington Post attempts to describe the merits and downsides to the law as unbiased as possible, but it’s still very confusing.

On one hand, I really would like to see table games come to Maryland. I think it’ll bring a lot of revenue and personally, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at craps and poker without having to go to Atlantic City or Vegas. On the other hand, I don’t want to make a bunch of already rich guys even richer without some boon to us, the proletariat. As for the supposed windfall to education, I think it’s great, but I don’t believe for a minute that it’ll happen this time, just as it hasn’t happened the last 27 times it was promised.

Has anyone researched this referendum and drawn some solid conclusions? Please share.

No research or conclusions to offer. I was in Baltimore last week and several local news stories said that Baltimore was not getting any casinos whether the referendum passes or not. The locals seemed resigned to this, but didn’t express any problems with the idea of opening a casino.

The big selling point of Question 7 is that it would provide more funding for education. But the Washington Post article you linked to says that it would not increase spending on education - that a portion of the current funding for education would be replaced by casino revenues, so money currently going to education would be freed up for other purposes:

Underlining mine.

So the claim that the revenues would be going to education seems a bit of a bait-and-switch.

Another claim that bugs me is this one:

A “destination resort” in PG County, huh?

Well, we’ve already got one: it’s called National Harbor, and it’s where the casino would likely be placed; the only other contender is Rosecroft Raceway. At least, it’s got to be a destination resort, because you can’t get there from here except by limited-access highway. It was sold to the public as an anchor for development at that end of the county, but since it’s not connected to the rest of the county in any meaningful way (and actually fenced off from adjacent neighborhoods), it’s basically an island with no inexpensive way to get there. It’s a place where you have to pay five bucks just to park and walk around. So screw National Harbor and the politicians it rode in on.

This is what happens with every gambling liberalization. They’re all purportedly for education funding and none of them actually do anything to fund education. Even the ones that specifically allocate funding to education have the same result, because the legislature invariably cuts the rest of the education fund.

That said, they do improve the state’s bottom line, and you get to play poker. Win-win.

I am a Virginia resident, just over the river from National Harbor where, as I understand it, the new gambling will go on. If they get gambling I will stop going there. Sure, they will get plenty of business to make up for it and National Harbor is hurting. I’m not going to be interested in taking my family or friends to a place with sleazy slot machine.

One of the goals here is to draw some betting money out of Virginia, so that, in a few years, then we can have a fight about all the “education money” we are losing to Maryland. Getting gambling at National Harbor will be a short term gain to a few businessmen and a long term loss to both Maryland and Virginia. Virginia was suckered once when we felt like we had to follow Maryland to the riches of the lottery.

Vote no, please, so we don’t have to fight this fight in VA.

You have already expressed your own desire to play the games, so I think you have your answer. Who ends up benefiting? The players and the house. Obviously the house ends up winning more than losing, but the players have some benefit as well (the fun of the game is enough for some). To me, things like this aren’t about who gets the money, it’s about personal freedom. The right of an individual to do what he wants with what is his. The right of the owner of the casino to offer the games he wants to offer, and the right of the patrons to play the games they want to play; both should be respected in a country that passes itself off as a bastion of freedom.

To summarize: When it comes to the legalization of anything, I don’t ask myself what the benefit of legalization is. I ask what the harm is. If there is no harm, I vote to legalize, regardless of the existence of a benefit.

Reviewing the bidding:

  1. The money apparently would benefit the Maryland general fund, not Maryland schools.

  2. If the new casino is at National Harbor, there’s really no guarantee that the promised jobs would go to Marylanders either. The Harbor is just as easily accessible from VA as it is from MD.

  3. It would bring casino gambling to National Harbor. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your POV. Either way, it’s next to impossible to get rid of, once it’s there: this is a one-way gate.

This is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that National Harbor is, as I mentioned, pretty much detached from the surrounding area. If gambling comes to National Harbor, it’s only technically coming to PG County. It might as well be coming to an island in the middle of the Potomac.

I’m personally against it, but then I regard casino gambling as a blight, and the schools appear unlikely to benefit, so my scales tip pretty heavily against. Your scales may vary.

If it keeps some gamblers in MD instead of going up to AC or Delaware Park, then it’s got my vote. The money usage worries me, since I’m not exactly sure where it goes locally, but we need the money up here. However, I’m much less worried about 7 not passing than I am about 4 or 6.

The law already authorizes 5 slots-only casinos in Maryland. I’m not sure where they all are; one’s at Arundel Mills, and another will be in downtown Baltimore, according to this article. My understanding when the original law passed back in 2007 was that most of the casinos were supposed to be located to snag traffic on the way to the out-of-state casinos.

The first one was in Perryville, which is where I’m from and is also why I want the table games. The casino is only a half hour from Delaware Park and maybe 80 minutes from Dover. Why stop at Perryville for slots when you can go to DE and play some poker? Hell people in Perryville frequent Delaware Park just for the table games, and none of the Maryland casinos will be destinations without them.

double post

If that was the question, I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with it. But this isn’t a personal freedom referendum. It gives the government a monopoly on gaming licenses and misleads the public into voting for it because of “education funding.” It ends up being a terribly regressive tax on poor people and ultimately becomes a race to the bottom.

In five years when VA legalizes table gaming (to keep lost revenues and “education funding” from going to MD) then the whole thing becomes revenue neutral. Then what does the legislature have in mind for more revenue? Legal murder for hire and child prostitution? What better way to get money for educating kids than to make them work for it!