As our Governor and legislative leaders anticipate a budget shortfall, once again the near “magic bullet” of gambling appears to be a significant portion of a solution. This is a bad idea.
I’ve watched a number of states that I’ve lived in look to gambling in its many different forms as a solution to budget woes. In each one, within a few short years, actual revenue has fallen short of projections and the gambling lobbyists encourage the expansion of gambling. Limits gradually get pushed aside. (Witness what recently happened in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Casinos were required to be on barges in the Gulf of Mexico and after Katrina, when several had been lifted by the storm and placed on land, the legislature decided to allow them to be inland. In West Virginia, slots are gradually giving way to “table games”. In Iowa, horse racing and dog racing gave way to riverboats and slots. In Pennsylvania, the lottery has given way to slots.)
Additionally, consider the following for Maryland.
- Revenue shortfall is occurring now. Income from gambling, even if enacted now, will not come until up to 4 years later.
- Slots in Maryland as proposed will shift more than a half a billion dollars of revenue burden onto three of the poorest jurisdictions in the state. (That seems a lot like using the poorest counties in West Virginia for landfill sites for New York City.)
- Slot proceeds are not new revenue, they are re-allocated spending from other sources and negatively impacts sales taxes.
- Slots are inelastic. They do not grow with the economy. They have to be expanded to continue to maintain the revenue level. This puts the State of Maryland in business with an exploitive industry which has the goal of creating more gamblers who will lose more money.
- Studies have shown that there is an increase in social service costs associated with this particular revenue stream. Crime, poverty, foreclosures, divorce rates, and bankruptcies all increase with expanded gambling.
There is more, but that is enough for the time being.