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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:

  1. Allow table games in addition to existing slot machines;
  2. Increase the statewide cap on the number of slots;
  3. 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

In support

  • 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.

In opposition

  • 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

In support

In opposition

Unaligned

 

WHAT THEY'RE REPORTING

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Frank in Elkridge October 25, 2012 at 07:07 PM
"Those expecting to lose revenue—particularly Penn National Gaming, —are largely bankrolling the campaign against the measure" In other words all the advertising against Question 7 is being funded by casinos who simply don't want any more competition. Penn National and Cordish don't really care about the issues raised in the ads - they are just trying to confuse the voters, and are hiding the real reasons that they are against Question 7.
emcee October 25, 2012 at 08:02 PM
"Leading the charge are casino operators that stand to benefit, including MGM Resorts International, CBAC Gaming LLC, and The Peterson Companies." In other words all the advertising FOR Question 7 is being funded by casinos who simply want to make money. MGM & CBAC don't really care about the issues raised in the ads - they are just trying to confuse the voters, and are hiding the real reasons that they are for Question 7. see what i did there? eh? eh?
Nick Yeates October 26, 2012 at 07:31 AM
I see what you did. Sly. Dont trust the advertising. Do your own research. My research: I have done a 180 on this topic now. I loved gambling as an outlet....but now am understanding what a negative effect it has on our society. It inadvertently taxes the poor. Gambling also creates no intrinsic value or product - commercial gambling siphons off the losses of thousands of people - some to the state, some to business owners, some to employees. The point being - those are monetary LOSSES for thousands. As a policy, we should reduce individual monetary loss, and encourage them to spend it on more productive subjects. An interesting read: http://www.rps.psu.edu/edchoice/money.html
David Maier October 26, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I can say I object to this bill because of the lack of control over where the money will truly go. The State of Maryland has been very good about putting money in "trust" funds and then raiding(you could read this as stealing) the funds later to spend it on what they please. They do it thru legislation which makes it "legal". Amoral but "legal". The Politicians will tell you the money went to education but what they don't tell you is that instead of putting the same amount from the General Fund into education, they reduce the General Fund contribution to education and use the gambling money to replace it. In other words ZERO NET GAIN for Education! It is slight of hand so the sheeple will go along in silence. I will not vote for any incumbents as a result. I am willing to lose a few good politicians to upright the system!
emcee October 26, 2012 at 02:54 PM
EXACTLY!
emcee October 26, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I second that. I've done some gambling in vegas and atlantic city, but the impacts are far greater on folks in the community.
Carl October 27, 2012 at 03:52 PM
I'm going with Md. State Comptroler Peter Franchot on this one and voting against it.
Gabe Knowlton October 31, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Having been born in Reno and growing up in a gambling community, I have to say no to this referendum. I think it a very shameful marketing ploy to sale the Education angle to entice voters to vote Yes. This is a case of what is best in the long-term and not satiating a greedy appetite short-term. The damages long-term on communities far outweigh the short-term gain. We must find other ways to fiscal responsibility than praying on lower-income tax payers. This is about the health of a state beyond the immediate dollar. Please consider the bigger picture before glancing at the marketing ploy. Remember, there are no guarantees for this money being used for education as it is being sold, but there are guarantees that the gambling culture it creates will have a negative and greater impact on the people of this state. Please vote No. Take it from someone who's life has seen the price paid.
Michael November 05, 2012 at 03:51 PM
First it was all about saving horse racing in Maryland; now its all about money for education. The truth is that it's nothing but political BS backed by huge sums of money from competing gamling consortiums. Maryland legislators should have taken the time necessary to do it right the first time. Now they realize they screwed up and want voters to clean up the mess they created. No thanks! Question 7 is a loser from every angle.

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