Question 7: A Primer on Maryland's Expanded Gambling Referendum
A look at what's at stake—and how the battle is being waged.
In June, Maryland Live! Casino opened its Hanover doors to thousands of gamblers who descended on the 3,200 slot and video gaming machines. In its first month, Maryland Live! Casino brought in $28 million.
From complaints about the initial highway sign that some residents said gave the unfortunate appearance of a connection between Elkridge and the casino, to Odenton Patch readers who say Maryland Live! is great entertainment, casinos have been on the minds residents of this region for a while.
Question 7 on this November's ballot asks weather voters want expanded gambling not only at Maryland Live!, but throughout the state. No matter your opinion on casinos, here's information you need to make the right decision for you at the voting booth.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT
Question 7 asks voters whether they favor a plan to expand gambling in Maryland that would:
- Allow table games in addition to existing slot machines;
- Increase the statewide cap on the number of slots;
- Permit a sixth casino in the state, to be located at National Harbor in Prince George's County.
The ballot question is a result of legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly during its 2012 special session (view the House and Senate roll calls) and signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley. Several other portions of the law are not subject to a referendum.
Slot machines have been permitted in the state since voters approved a gaming referendum (59 percent to 41 percent) in November 2008. Passage of Question 7 would mark a significant shift, however, bringing Maryland's casinos closer in line with those of Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
Under the law, casino operators would be allowed to keep a larger share of revenue—somewhere between 39 and 51 percent—as compensation for the added competition. But new business brought in by the expansion is expected to boost the overall proceeds for the Maryland Education Trust Fund, which provides school aid to local jurisdictions.
According to The Washington Post, the nonpartisan Maryland Department of Legislative Services projects the current setup to generate $260 million for the trust fund this fiscal year and $580 million four years from now. Introducing table games and a sixth casino would add another $60 million to that tally this year and $199 million in fiscal year 2019, the DLS estimates (view a Post graphic on the projected changes).
Question 7 has fueled enormous advertising efforts by supporters and opponents alike. Leading the charge are casino operators that stand to benefit, including MGM Resorts International, CBAC Gaming LLC, and The Peterson Companies.
Those expecting to lose revenue—particularly Penn National Gaming, which runs the competing Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia—are largely bankrolling the campaign against the measure.
WHAT IT SAYS, EXACTLY
"Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate 'table games' as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George’s County?"
- For the Additional Forms and Expansion of Commercial Gaming
- Against the Additional Forms and Expansion of Commercial Gaming
WHAT THEY'RE ARGUING
- The measure will funnel tens of millions of new dollars into the Maryland Education Trust Fund, which supports schools in communities across the state.
- The law will prevent a significant amount of gambling revenue from leaving Maryland each year while drawing in many out-of-state customers.
- The expansion will create new jobs, including both short-term construction work and permanent positions.
- With the introduction of a casino, National Harbor can become a true resort destination, bringing additional non-gambling income into the state.
- The measure won't actually stimulate Maryland's schools, as the state formula for disbursing educational funding is not directly affected by the new law. Instead, the trust will simply be used to free up existing revenue streams for other purposes.
- The new law is effectively a giveaway to the companies that run the casinos, offering lower tax rates than they pay now and opening the door to further breaks in the future.
- There's little evidence that the changes will generate as many jobs as supporters claim—or that those jobs will go to Maryland residents.
- Gambling has a disproportionate impact on low-income communities and breeds corruption. It should not be relied on further as a source of revenue.
WHAT THEY'RE WRITING
- Vote for Maryland’s Question 7 (The Washington Post)
- Gaming Expansion—A Great Opportunity (The AFRO)
- Question 7 Will Keep Money for Needed Services in Maryland (Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore)
- Keep Maryland Money in Maryland (Susan Beckwell, Bowie)
- Question 7 Gives County a ‘World-Class’ Opportunity (Jerome Brayboy, Clinton)
- Vote for Question 7 (committee website)
- The Shaky Case for Question 7 (Baltimore Sun)
- Vote No On Question 7 (Chestertown Spy)
- Don't Be Duped: Vote No on Question 7 (Sen. James Brochin, Towson [D-42])
- Say No to Expanded Gambling in Maryland (Daniel Schneckenburger, Elkton)
- Pinsky Says No to Gambling in Prince George's (Patch)
- Vote No on 7 (committee website)
- Question 7 Is No Win Either Way (Dean Minnich, Westminster)
WHAT THEY'RE REPORTING
- Expanded Gaming Passes General Assembly (Patch)
- The House Rules for Md. Slots Operators (Washington Post)
- Conflicting Studies Muddy Impact of Question 7 (Maryland Gazette)
- Millions Amassed in Battle Over Maryland's Controversial Gambling Proposal (Patch/Capital News Service)
- MGM Adds About $8 Million to Gambling Campaign Account (Daily Record)
- Redskins Gamble on Public Perception with Question 7 (CBS DC)
- Clergy Wants a 'No' Vote on Question 7 (WBAL TV)
- Maryland Ballot Question 7: Las Vegas On the Potomac? (The Kojo Nnamdi Show)