Question Of The Month

Should Maryland gamble on slots?

January 31, 2004

Q: Should the state approve slot machine gambling? If so, where would you put the slots? Would you favor a referendum on the issue?

The state should reject slots.

Slots come with heavy social costs. These costs include increased embezzlement, which results in business bankruptcies and unemployment of innocent employees. Slots create opportunities for compulsive gamblers to bankrupt their families. They also result in increased alcoholism, domestic abuse, divorce and suicide rates.

Several studies have found that the increased social costs could exceed any additional state revenue. And all estimates of additional state revenue show that slots will be insufficient to eliminate Maryland's structural deficit.

Finally, the state should be extremely wary of privatizing its tax base by allowing gambling interests to own slots emporiums.

Whatever percentage of the take the state allows owners to keep, within a few years they will be complaining it isn't enough. Then they will demand the state give them more or they'll move to Delaware.

Sheldon H. Laskin

Baltimore

If we can vote for president or risk our lives in war, we can manage our use of slots without guardianship from the state legislature.

There probably would be some slots-related abuses and even some related tragedies. Abuses and tragedies related to prescription drugs and alcohol happen every day, but they affect only a minority, and people have managed to keep them in perspective.

And the domino theory that leads from slots to pervasive corruption is no more convincing than the discredited idea of communism spreading from North Korea or Vietnam to the rest of the world.

It makes little sense to prohibit slots in Maryland when they are available in Delaware, and consequently deny our state the substantial revenue slots would provide.

Allen S. Lloyd Jr.

Catonsville

The state's budget shortfall dictates that we must find a source of additional revenue. What better way than using slots (and perhaps casinos) rather than raising taxes or creating new taxes and fees?

I urge state politicians to join together and vote for slots and casinos in Maryland. But if the politicians can't come to an agreement, let the citizens vote on slots.

The slots or casinos should be controlled by the state. And the majority of the revenue must go to its treasury.

Robert Soller

Carney

Maryland is in danger of falling prey to the "easy money" solution touted by the governor and the massive gambling lobby. But slots would not solve anything and would create a range of expensive problems.

Revenue from slots would not come near to balancing our budget. Experts disagree on how much we could expect Marylanders to lose at slots, but no serious observer believes that it would come close to what the state needs.

At the same time, slots would cost the state big in other ways. We would need to regulate this predatory industry, create addiction services, and cover the costs of roads, safety and other infrastructure the slots facilities would need.

Meanwhile, existing tax-paying businesses would suffer, as dollars were reallocated to gambling from other more positive activities.

Slots would also lower Maryland's status.

West Virginia has slots because it has no other economic alternative. Maryland boasts one of the wealthiest and best-educated populations in the nation. Having a state-sanctioned, predatory gambling industry would only make us a less attractive location for new high-tech, biotech and financial services jobs.

We can and must do better.

Aaron Meisner

Baltimore

I'm not a great advocate of gambling, but it doesn't take a genius to realize that a great deal of money is being taken out of this state to surrounding states with slots. And asking these states to give us money not to have slots would not work and would only make us look like fools.

If we get slots, we should make them available to any tavern, bar or restaurant owner as well as to the racetracks. The state could set up the divisions of payoffs as it does with the lottery and other gambling games in Maryland.

Maryland needs slots, and the General Assembly must stop the bickering.

George Kukoly

Baltimore

The economics of slots evade me. Players are (at best) spending their discretionary income on slots. This money, therefore, is removed from some other segment of the economy - meals out, new clothes, new cars, home remodeling, toys and so forth.

It seems to me that taking a sizable chunk of discretionary income out of the economy to give it to gambling concession-holders in return for a moderate fee, a small number of service-level jobs and large social and infrastructure problems is hardly cost-effective.

Sam Bass

Baltimore

I live in southern Prince George's County, where Rosecroft Raceway and the proposed National Harbor are located. And I don't want the crime, traffic and addiction that would follow the slots.

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