What's Hidden In Expanded Gambling Legislation

John J. Walters Oct 17, 2012

When Maryland voters visit the polls this November, they will vote on much more than our nation’s next president. This year’s ballot contains an unprecedented seven ballot questions – allowing residents the most direct influence over state-level decisions in 30 years. One of the largest and most controversial issues is gambling expansion, only four years after Maryland first legalized gambling to raise money for public education and other under-funded capital projects.

Initially, Maryland legalized the construction of five casinos that would contain a total of no more than 15,000 slot machines; table games such as black-jack, craps, and roulette would remain illegal. And although only three casino facilities are currently operational at this writing, the Maryland legislature is already considering whether to add a sixth facility in Prince George’s County, increase the maximum number of allowable slot machines to 16,500, and legalize table games at all six facilities.

This represents a major departure from the state’s initial strategy. Whereas before it was clear we legalized slots gambling expressly to raise money for a few specific causes, now Maryland residents must wonder if we are trying to keep up with our neighbor-states – Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Near our borders, they all have casinos that extract revenue from Maryland taxpayers. Could the expansion of gambling in Maryland simply be another part of this competition?

At any rate, Maryland voters are going to be asked to make the final decision on the proposed expansion of gambling.