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Maryland’s Question 7: buried in hooey and deserved of defeat

Marylanders will go to the polls Nov. 6 and vote on yet another gambling referendum
Marylanders will go to the polls Nov. 6 and vote on yet another gambling referendum
Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Without the Democratic Party’s playbook as his guide, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley presents himself as knowledgeable in very few areas. From his silly setting of a date to end childhood hunger to his laughable predictions (and claims) in regard to job creation and through his most recent ‘analysis’ of President Obama’s debate performance, Maryland’s top politico rarely gets a topic that lands directly in his wheelhouse.
That is, until a few weeks ago, when a discussion with reporters outside the Maryland State House provided the Guv’nah with a fastball right down the middle.
O’Malley, through the sort of lip-biting resentment we often see when it appears this petulant politician won’t get his way, suggested that the television/radio ads opposing his dubious attempt to expand gambling in Maryland are no more than “hogwash” and plain old “West Virginia casino hooey.”
And there it was: hooey. If there is one subject in which this governor can engage with all the familiarity of a farmer stepping in cow cookies it is hooey.
Also defined as nonsense, twaddle, and claptrap, Gov. O’Malley has spent six-plus-years in office saturating Marylanders with his own brand of casino hooey – better known as Annapolis bunkum.
The floating O’Malley hokum can most often be found in his spurious championing of Maryland’s job numbers, but the gabble flows equally thick through his claims of ‘cutting the state’s budget’ more than any governor in Maryland history – even though he has presided over a better-than-16-percent increase between fiscal years 2008 and 2012.
Now, as one of the governor’s faces labels the ads opposing expanded gambling as hooey, the other face ignores the fact that ads supporting expanded gambling are equally… well… let’s go with ‘hooeytus’.
The deceitful verbiage put forth by both sides on this issue surround Question 7, which will appear on the November 6 ballot thusly:
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 operational licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George's County.
Weasel words be damned; Question 7 at its base is simply about putting a casino in Prince George’s County, thereby rewarding the campaign donors in Senate President Mike Miller’s backyard and at the same time, paying off the friends of Gov. Martin O’Malley who want to do business in Maryland and who have donated significant monies to the Democratic Governor’s Association.
Okay, not so basic – think of it as thimblerig but in the taxpayer’s version of the game there’s nary a pea under any of the shells.
Oh, yeah, and there’s the part about adding table games to both casinos that actually exist and to those that are doing credible impressions of vacant lots.
Speaking of which… will someone explain to me the current pro-gambling expansion commercial where some suit from Harrah’s is walking around a dirt-covered expanse claiming that an affirmative vote for Question 7 will trigger the construction of a Carpet Joint right there beneath his $400 Bruno Maglis? Didn’t the voters give approval to said construction 4 years ago?
Hooey… It’s everywhere. Passing Question 7 does not ‘guarantee millions more for Maryland schools” – Maryland schools are funded through an assortment of state laws, the most dreadful of which is the “Bridge to Excellence Act”, otherwise known as the Thornton Law. The procedures used to fund Maryland’s “Number 1 school system” did not change with the passage of the first laughably bad slots legislation, nor will it change if voters approve Q7.
The $7 billion budget for schools (man, talk about a lousy return on our investment) will remain untouched, and the windfall the state will realize from additional gambling revenues will allow Annapolis to continue doing what they do best: feed a government appetite that is already out of control.
Passing Question 7 will not eliminate the need to raise taxes; will not save Rocky Gap from its inevitable extinction; will barely stem the tide of gamblers who take their money out of state (Maryland’s current casinos are as much fun as a tooth extraction); will give tax cuts to out of state casino interests but not to our local small businesses; will throw nearly $400 million worth of subsidies at the barely-breathing horse racing industry; will not end the gambling debate in the legislature (there’s already talk of a second Prince George’s County casino); will rub salt in the tax wounds of the middle class who saw the state take more of their income while cutting taxes (and raising the overall take) for casino owners; will not immediately deliver the number of “jobs for Marylanders” proponents promise; will not put Maryland in a position to compete with surrounding states because of our decade-late arrival at the party; and as we’ve just recently learned, will piss-off former-Baltimore Ravens’ tackle Jonathan Ogden.
Ogden, seen standing behind Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in the latest pro-gambling TV spot, lets viewers know that we don’t want to make him mad by continuing to take our gambling dollars out of state, and that we should support Baltimore by supporting Question 7.
Look, I enjoy being a non-city resident who pumps thousands of wasted tax dollars into the Baltimore spending void as much as the next Democrat, but using a retired NFL player to scare me into sponsoring Blackjack on Russell Street in 2014 will not sway my decision to avoid this one-armed band-it-wagon.
Yes, gambling done right can generate significant revenue for both the state and the areas in which the cash houses are located – especially in the current economic climate where there’s little stomach for new taxes (an environment that obviously doesn't include Annapolis – where they would figure out a way to tax our gas masks during a chemical weapon attack).
Casinos with table games will not remedy budget gaps, nor are they a credible plan for economic growth. But thanks to a legislature that has lacked courage, foresight and the ability to make smart decisions the current state of gambling in Maryland is a hot mess, and there are no signs that a promised financial jackpot of any kind is just around the corner.
Laughably, the “brains” behind the pro/anti Question 7 barrages expect us to believe that a business entity based outside of Maryland doesn't have our best interest at heart (Q7 opponents), but another business entity based outside of Maryland (Q7 proponents) does.
As such, the answer is simple: vote no on Question 7 and force the legislature to roll up their sleeves and finally do some dirty work on behalf of the taxpayer.
And don’t worry about angering Jonathan Ogden – just don a Dwight Freeney jersey before you head toward those West Virginia casinos… you’ll be in Charlestown’s backfield all afternoon.


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