The wording of the upcoming slots referendum needs to be changed. The best thing would be to toss out the current language and start from scratch.
In November, voters will be specifically asked to check whether they are for or against the constitutional amendment that will place slots at sites across the state.
As it stands today, under the title of “Authorizing Video Lottery Terminals (Slot Machines) to Fund Education,” here’s how the referendum will officially read: “Authorizes the State to issue up to five video lottery licenses for the purpose of raising revenue for education of children in public schools, prekindergarten through grade 12, public school construction and improvements, and construction of capital projects at community colleges and higher education institutions. No more than a total number of 15,000 video lottery terminals may be authorized in the State, and only one license may be issued for each specified location in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Worcester, and Allegany Counties, and Baltimore City. Any additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming in Maryland is prohibited, unless approved by a voter referendum.”
A lawsuit has been filed to challenge the wording of this ballot question, and we hope to see this language completely thrown out because it’s misleading and persuasive and clearly will lend people to believe all slots’ proceeds will benefit education. It does not mention the fact business folks operating the disclosed sites will also benefit significantly and that one of the driving motivations behind expanding gambling in Maryland was to keep slots lovers from going to neighboring states with their income. If slots are about education, as this ballot question reads, it’s also about keeping money away from neighboring states.
As sad as it is, there are some folks, thousands actually, that will step into the voting booth this fall with little to no idea about slots. There are many people who pay no attention to the news and have no clue slots are poised for this state. If you read that question without any knowledge of what’s going on in your state and the potential ramifications, you will check yes. The reasoning goes money for education is never a bad thing. That’s an obvious yes vote.
No matter how you perceive slots, there’s no question the wording of this referendum needs to be scratched. The state’s secretary of state drafted the referendum and he has said repeatedly he simply followed the letter of the legislation passed by the General Assembly. That may well be the case, but this wording does not meet the test of full disclosure. If the referendum is going to discuss money being directed to education, it must include the entire picture and lay out exactly where all the proceeds will go from slots. Education will not be the recipient of every dollar made on slots. That’s far from the case. The owners of these five disclosed sites will see a benefit as will the state’s general operating budget. If the language is going to take its current tone, then these beneficiaries should be added.
Slots are a divisive issue and there are plenty of pros and cons to weigh heavily before the November election. We have been consistently opposed to slots in Maryland. However, even if you think slots will be a wonderful addition to the state’s landscape, there is no debate this language is deceptive and is unnecessarily persuasive. It needs to be changed.