A Vote Against Slots

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A Vote Against Slots

With Question 2 on their ballot next Tuesday, Maryland voters will finally decide whether the state will add slots to its existing forms of gambling. We say vote against it.

If slots are approved at the numerous sites including the Ocean Downs racetrack, the impact on this area will be significant.

There’s no question it will hurt Ocean City area businesses already competing for the disposable incomes of those visiting the area and those who reside here. Many businesses are struggling in this unofficial recession as it is, and it will only be a matter of time before Ocean City businesses begin looking to add slots to their grounds because they will grow tired of cash flow reductions and watching money leave the town. That’s not what we want for Ocean City.

The state is projecting slots revenue will ease the state’s recurring structural deficit. That’s optimistic at best and naïve at its worse. The state’s own projections, which say that between 2009 and 2013 slots will yield between $453 million and $604 million a year, were recently termed "overly optimistic" by Moody’s, an important credit rating company that does business with Maryland. Other studies have confirmed that.

No matter the number the state uses, the state’s structural deficit will be at least $800 million annually until 2013. Projected slots revenue will neither cure the state’s financial ills nor bring the necessary boost to education and the slumping horse racing industry as proponents maintain. In fact, a positive vote for slots will lead to a number of new expenditures required to address the well-document ill-effects, including infrastructure improvements, crime prevention and education and other societal adjustments associated with the inevitable gambling addiction that come with it. Slots will bring in a lot of new money to state coffers, but it will come with a cost that far outweighs any amount of dollars.

The bottom line here is Maryland is in a financial nightmare and each year for the foreseeable future expenditures are going to outpace revenues. With or without slots, cuts will have to be made and taxes will have to be raised. We do not think adding slots and all that goes with it is the direction the state should go.

With this referendum, legislators simply passed the buck. The idea being if slots are not approved, they have a political immunity card for raising taxes and cutting spending, both of which are inevitable regardless of the referendum outcome.

We urge voters to not gamble on Maryland’s future with what may or may not be a short-term fix. The revenue projected is not worth all that comes with expanded gambling. Legislators can make the tough decisions without compromising the state’s integrity with an ill-conceived slots bailout. Vote against Question 2 and preserve the quality of life we enjoy.

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