Let's scrap Baltimore slots and put them in National Harbor

May 13, 2012

Dan Rodricks raises an interesting point but still only offers two possible solutions to the slots conundrum ("On slots: A deal's a deal, baby," May 10).

While it's true that developer David Cordish is playing by the rules originally set out in the 2008 slots referendum and that he has valid and understandable concerns with a gambling facility at the National Harbor, most observers continue to paint the situation as one with only two possible outcomes: 1) either hold to the original bargain and disallow a gambling facility at the National Harbor or 2), put a sixth slots parlor up for referendum — along with the option of adding table games — despite the obvious (and arguably unfair) impact on Mr. Cordish and the Arundel Mills facility.

The situation has changed since 2008, and our legislature and voters should be flexible and consider a third option. How about scrapping the idea of a slots parlor in Baltimore City and putting one at the National Harbor. The Harbor, in Prince Georges County, is a perfect place for a gaming facility. It is an entertainment mecca and will support an upscale, high-revenue facility which will draw heavily from the entire Washington D.C. region.

It's hard to imagine a Baltimore facility performing as well. Additionally, scrapping the Baltimore slots parlor should help appease Baltimore progressives concerned about those who can least afford to gamble doing so to their own detriment. It is less likely that our lowest income residents will travel all the way to the National Harbor to gamble than if there were a facility in our own back yard.

In exchange for giving up the Baltimore facility, Baltimore should be guaranteed the same percentage of total revenues from gaming as under the 2008 agreement. I suspect that total state gaming revenues, and thus the cut that the city and our schools gets, would be greater with a National Harbor site than with a Baltimore one.

Such a deal should appease both Mr. Cordish and Prince George's CountyExecutive Rushern Baker. Eliminating a Baltimore parlor would cut out the closest competition for the Arundel Mills site (only 12 miles away) and would allow that facility to increase its draw significantly throughout the entire Baltimore region.

Let's think outside the box and consider all of the options on the table. The delay in starting the Baltimore City slots project may have been a blessing in disguise.

While we're at it, let's go ahead and approve table games as well. As Mr. Rodricks put it, a National Harbor gaming facility could be a casino for one-percenters and conventioneers. They won't come just to drop quarters in a slot machine, but if table games will get them to the National Harbor to have some fun while funding our schools, why no let them do it.

Mike Jacobson, Baltimore

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