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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Creating a positive out of casino gambling


     So this last week saw the opening of the new casino in Baltimore.  The Horseshoe Casino is just the latest entry into the becoming crowded gaming industry in Maryland. In two years we can look forward to the new casino at National Harbor in P.G County.  It is hard to remember how just a few years ago there was considerable opposition to casinos in Maryland.  Remember the opposition of Mayor O'Malley to casinos?  Now that Maryland seems to be trying to squeeze every dollar it can out of casino gambling the question remains about whether Maryland is better off with the expansion of casino gambling.  Sure the Mayor of Baltimore and many state legislators are anxious to have the tax revenue that casinos (and the lottery) generate for local jurisdictions and the state coffers but is there a clear benefit to the state to balance out the negative social issues that are caused by gambling addictions?
      I have always had reservations about the state generating needed revenue by providing gambling opportunities.   Can you tell me the social benefit that has been provided by the gambling revenue in Maryland?  It seems to be used primarily to balancing the Maryland budget.  I know that this may seem to be a fiscal benefit that may lower the need to other forms of tax revenue.  I could be more neutral on this increasing gambling industry if it was clearly going to a greater social good like providing college scholarships to any student going to a state college in Maryland.  A number of states have just such an arrangement.   The one of which I am the most familiar is the Georgia Hope Scholarship program.   This program has provided over 6 billion dollars to 1.5 million Georgia college students attending Georgia colleges.  Residency requirements are fairly liberal with a graduating high school student only needing to have lived in Georgia for one year and a non Georgia high school graduate having a two year residency requirement.  For many Georgia college students this means they can graduate from college debt free.  While we brag about the University of Maryland having had a low rate of increase in college tuition the past few years we still have Maryland students graduating with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Granted some of the gambling revenue may have been directed to colleges in Maryland but maybe it is time to look at gambling revenue going more directly into college scholarships.

      The question for estimating revenue coming into state coffers from gambling is how much the new casinos will just cannibalize the gambling dollars from the Maryland Lottery or the older casinos in the state.  It is not hard to imagine a day with the only surviving casinos in Maryland are Maryland Live, the Horseshoe and the future casino at National Harbor.  Just look at how casino competition is impacting Atlantic City.  Becoming addicted to gambling revenue can be as troubling to states as it is to individuals addicted to gambling.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know your post today is about gambling, but I must comment about your U of MD statement. Yes, if you can get into College Park, the in-state fees are affordable. The problem lies in the fact that they don't want to have Md students attending the school. They get far more money from out of state and foreign students. It is almost impossible for a MD resident to be accepted. They only HAVE to take a certain percentage. UMBC, on the other hand takes far more MD residents.