Thursday, April 02, 2009

Slots: Give the People What They Want

A friend of mine this week implored the folks in his considerable address book to contact the Anne Arundel County Council and urge them to vote against a request to allow, in effect, a company to build a slot machine casino near Arundel Mills Mall.
"If concerned citizens don’t speak up, Anne Arundel County is about to change for the worse. At 7 PM on Thursday evening, the Anne Arundel County Council is holding a hearing to determine whether to change zoning laws to allow for the construction of a 200,000 square foot Casino at Arundel Mills."
He went on at length about how county residents do not approve of the casino, that the newly amended state constitution, which county voters did approve of, allows local jurisdictions to deny zoning for casinos, etc. This was my reply:
Ordinarily, I would be a part of any and every protest against the establishment of slots. I opposed it during Ehrlich's campaign and administration and I opposed the recent amendment to the state constitution.

My arguments, as you will note, are devoid of any moralizing about the frailties of the human spirit when it comes to gambling away paychecks, welfare checks, food stamps, etc. Instead I focused on the plain fact that gambling as it was promoted as a state and local revenue stream, as a way to forestall confiscatory taxation, as a means towards a better education for the kids, was disingenuous and flawed public policy. Bad governance. Lazy governance. Sheer stupidity.

Why? Because it was based on flawed assumptions of the revenue stream and ignored very real expenses associated with a government-run enterprise.

But the people of Maryland have spoken. They have overwhelmingly approved, endorsed and I assume welcome the return of gambling to the state. Now they should get what they asked for. They should be held accountable to themselves for whatever crime and traffic they were willing to foist upon the poor venues of the floundering thoroughbred racing industry in Baltimore and Laurel and upon the peaceful denizens of Cumberland and Garrett Counties.

The people of Maryland includes the people of Anne Arundel County, who also approved of the slots amendment. Why should we be insulated from the garish, neon-light-bathed casino fates to which we have consigned the rest of the state?

No. If we expect our elected leaders to suffer or benefit politically for the policies they make, we should expect no less for ourselves when we make policy through ballot questions.

He replied that county residents voted for the amendment that specified slots parlours at the race track, in Ocean City, and at Rocky Gap. Why should they expect to have them in Arundel Mills?

I knew this was the argument you'd make. The folks willingly bought the over-hyped snake-oil that the slots amendment was shown to be over and over again. If 3/4 of county voters voted against slots, I would have more sympathy. But that is not the case. I don't know what the margin was in Anne Arundel but I do believe it was a majority.

The folks were told that the slots amendment was only the camel's nose under the tent, that the zoning issue will be brought up again and again until Cordish or some other casino operator can buy a sufficient number of Council votes.

But I would be just as happy to see the casino go up and county residents who voted for slots suffer. Maybe the next time they won't be as easily persuaded.

And maybe, John, they will turn their regret into action against those who sold them this bill of goods, starting with the MD Chamber of Commerce.

They should name it the Kathleen T. Snyder Education Pot O' Gold after the President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce who came to the county and warned voters of the dire consequences they faced if they failed to approve the slots amendment.


Eye On Annapolis said...

Great post. AA actually supported the slots by a LARGER majority than the general population of the State. Statewide=59%, AA=63%

The language was indeed clear, that slots are to be within 2 miles of Route 295. Break out your compass kids and take a look where there could be more.

For the record, I am in favor of the slots. Not so much for the perceived benefit, but as a means to make up for the decades of poor governance in the State.

Mike Netherland said...

Thanks for the comment, Eye! But I must draw you out on the last point. You voted FOR slots hoping slots would lead to GOOD governance?

I remember as a kid, my brother and I found a dollar on the ground. We ran as fast as we could to the candy store. The buck was gone faster than you can say waxed-lips and Cracker-Jacks!

That's how good the governance will get with found money, if there is any money to be found. The Democrats will buy all the sugar-coated candy they can carry, pass it out to their friends and we'll be left holding an empty sack full of candy-wrappers.