Friday, October 31, 2008


No on the Constitutional Amendments

I’m heading to Ohio tomorrow morning – you can probably guess why – so did my civic duty and voted absentee today. Not a particular lengthy ballot but I did pause a bit over Question 2. Attila touched on this the other day and I want to follow-up with my own take on this.

I think slots should be legal for the simple reason that there are people who want to play them and there are others who want to provide the opportunity for those people to do so. Any governmental interest therefore is either pecuniary or paternal; neither of which resonates with any impact with me.

The arguments against slots usually invoke the regressive tax on the poor line or the increased crime statistic. The former is just Leftist speak for the poor-are-too-dumb-to-know-what-to-do-with-their-own-money; the latter just profiling of the politically correct type (and an argument which is always dismissed by the nanny-state’rs when others object to “affordable housing” projects).

The argument for slots always highlights just how much money it could bring the state and notes ominously that Marylanders have been trekking to neighboring states such as Delaware and West Virginia to drop their money into slots in those states. It also has been projected as a possible boost for the Horse Racing industry here.

As much as I enjoy a day at the races, that is no reason to bring in slots. I’m sensitive to what slot revenues has done for other states’ horse tracks but I still put our local tracks’ problems more at the feet of mis-management and of course inept state overview. Slots would be a natural fit at the tracks and I think the tracks should be allowed to have them – I’m just not convinced that Maryland should legislate such industry repairs.

But the argument that is the most fingernail-down-the-chalkboard for me is the one concerning the potential governmental rental stream. The last thing I want is government to have yet another revenue source with which to conduct their social engineering experiments. For example, the proponents brag that the Question 2 will:

“Dedicate 1.5% of gross proceeds to support small, minority and women-owned businesses in Maryland.”
(Of course, if all you did was read the Ballot version of Question 2, you’d never know that. see below)

Question 2 is a constitutional amendment meaning the governor and legislature were too candy-assed to make the decision themselves. Worse, Question 2, as written, limits access to slots to 5 locations which the legislature can’t increase on its own. The end result is a slots scheme that seeks first and foremost to enhance government revenue while deferring to the nanny-state denizens who want to tsk-tsk the life choices of the stereotypical poor and less-educated players all the while ensuring that none of them will ever actual visit the moralists locales. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Montgomery County.)

Probably the worse aspect of having to take a side in this matter is the unfortunate side-effect of aligning with some pretty unsavory characters no matter which way you go. The proponents include Governor O’Malley, the Baltimore Sun and the Maryland State Teachers Association; the Opponents include Comptroller Peter Franchot, the Washington Post and soon-to-be-ex Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.

But unlike Barack Obama, I couldn’t just vote “Present”…so I voted No. It’s too pro-government and too limiting on the industry. And ultimately, under the careful regulatory watchful eye of the State, I have no doubts that Maryland would completely botch the management of this enterprise such that the estimated returns don’t surface and we have another sick industry. Like I said earlier, we should have slots because there is demand for such gaming…not because Martin O’Malley has an agenda bigger than his resources.

Side Note I: Here is the text of the proposed Constitutional amendments.

“Authorizing Video Lottery Terminals (Slot Machines) to Fund Education
Authorizes the State to issue up to five video lottery licenses for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education of children in public schools, prekindergarten through grade 12, public school construction and improvements, and construction of capital projects at community colleges and higher education institutions. No more than a total number of 15,000 video lottery terminals may be authorized in the State, and only one license may be issued for each specified location in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Worcester, and Allegany Counties, and Baltimore City. Any additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming in Maryland is prohibited, unless approved by a voter referendum. Maryland State Board of Elections

…now see if you can discern from that verbage the following:

“The legislation also provides that the revenues generated by video lottery terminal gaming activities are to be distributed as follows: a minimum of 48.5% to the Education Trust Fund; no more than 33% to the video lottery operating licensees; 7% to horse racing purses (not to exceed $100,000,000 annually); 5.5% in local impact grants; 2.5% to the racetrack facility renewal account, not to exceed $40,000,000 annually (for the first 8 years only); 2% to the lottery agency for costs; and 1.5% to the Small, Minority, and Women- Owned Businesses Account. That companion legislation is contingent on the approval of this constitutional amendment.” Non-technical summary

Side Note II: I easily voted No to Question 1 also – that allows for early voting. Yeah, no chance of any mischief with that one.

I guess I'm just a leftist at heart.

Seriously, I see a difference between letting the poor use their money the way they want and encouraging them to waste it. There's a biblical principle that one shouldn't place a stumbling block before the blind. I think it applies to government-initiated temptations like gambling.
I agree. Slots should be an entirely private affair without the imptamatur of the government. KENO and the lottery are similarly suspect
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