The gambling bill designed to fatten the big gaming corporations has passed both houses of the Maryland General Assembly and was quickly signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Comptroller Peter Franchot responded with the following statement, printed in full below:
“The passage of legislation that will pave the way for a Las Vegas-style casino in Prince George’s County, while offering lucrative tax cuts and other critical concessions to casino operators throughout the state, illustrates the tightening control that the national gambling industry now exerts over Maryland’s political process.
“There never was a fiscal or an economic rationale for reconvening the Maryland General Assembly for its third special session in less than a year. Any revenues that will be generated by a new casino in Prince George’s County will take several years to materialize and, if the past is any indication, have been drastically overestimated by gambling supporters and legislative analysts.
“Furthermore, any modest revenues that will result from this new MGM casino will be offset to a large extent by the deep tax cuts that have been awarded by the legislature to MGM’s in-state competitors. Finally, lawmakers have been duly warned that it would be grossly premature to break ground on a sixth gambling casino without knowing if the marketplace could even support the ones we already have. Despite the limited reward and abundant risks of acting in undue haste, the General Assembly chose to move forward.
“While the events of the past few days have been extremely profitable for the national gambling industry, they have been calamitous to those who still value open, transparent and progressive government. The irregular nature of this session provided no meaningful forum for members of the public to attend public hearings, express their opinions and ask hard questions. It denied citizens the chance to review “real-time” campaign finance reports and draw their own conclusions. The final product – tax cuts of 25 percent or more for casino operators, from the same legislature that has repeatedly raised taxes, fees and tolls on small businesses and middle class families – is the most regressive act of public policy that I have seen in 25 years in public life.
“In less than three months, voters in Prince George’s County and throughout Maryland will vote to ratify or reject this proposal. Ultimately, this referendum will not be about whether Marylanders approve of slot machines and support their legalization. That matter has been decided. Rather, this will be about the type of government Marylanders want, and the kind of state we wish to leave to our kids. This is a question of whether we will allow the national gambling industry to control our political process from the backrooms of Annapolis, or whether we will take a stand for open, transparent and progressive government – one that is actually committed to getting Maryland’s fiscal house in order and reviving our troubled economy the right way. This will be a fight for Maryland’s future, and it’s one I look forward to joining.”
With our economy and our democratic process deteriorating rapidly, somebody in public life needs to speak the truth. Comptroller Peter Franchot’s analysis has the ring of truth.
BTW, while the Assembly was expanding gambling, they didn’t leave out veterans organizations. One obscure provision of the bill allows something called ”pull-tab bingo machines” in the meeting halls and barrooms run by veterans organizations. In plain English, slot machines or something similar in every veterans club throughout the state.
I hope the people of Maryland take a good, long look at this gambling fiasco before going to the polls in November, and again two years hence when legislators are up for re-election.
– John Hayden