We are all dismayed by the recent closing of the Sparrows Point Steel Mill and the loss of jobs. Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of federal politicians who created policies that helped to destroy the steel industry in America. Now the state politicians in Maryland are engaging in the same type of policies that will destroy the gaming industry before it even gets started.
The recent special session of the Maryland General Assembly was a lot like the popular game show, "Let's Make a Deal." Legislators were selling out left and right for short term concessions that would eventually lead to the passage of a gambling referendum that will destroy the gaming industry. The primary culprit is the creation of a new casino in Prince George's County at National Harbor. I call this facility the "Doomsday Casino" because it will doom the gaming industry in Maryland. Competition from the "Doomsday Casino" will overwhelm the original five gaming locations in the state.
The handwriting is already on the wall. The Hollywood Casino in Perryville lost 40 percent of its business in 30 days after the grand opening of Maryland Live Casino in Anne Arundel County. Perryville's massive decline can be directly contributed to the competition from Maryland Live. Ocean Downs, outside of Ocean City, is already losing money. The Western Maryland Casino has not gotten off the ground and the shovel has not even been pushed in the dirt for the construction of the casino in Baltimore City. The industry is in its infancy, is vulnerable and fragile.
In my remarks on the floor of the House of Delegates, I reminded my colleagues that we lack two important pieces of information. First, we lack a professional respected transparent study of the number of potential players in the Maryland gambling universe. Secondly, we need another study that would determine the impact of the competition from an unexpected new facility from the revenue potential of the other casinos. Of course, this revelation went in one ear and out the other. That is not the case in neighboring Delaware where they had directed the completion of both of these type studies and came to the intelligent conclusion that a fourth casino in their state would hurt the business of the existing three.
Maryland is not Atlantic City or Las Vegas or a gambler's destination. The proponents of the "Doomsday Casino" claim that it will generate 3,000 new jobs. The truth is the "Doomsday Casino" is a "job killer" that will put at risk the 10,000 jobs that are associated with the other five casinos.
The Governor and the General Assembly has been the "gang that can't shoot straight" in the past 10 years regarding the gambling issue. The "rush to judgment" special session just continued their dismal track record. They produced tax breaks for billionaire casino owners and reduced the amount of revenue for education. The casinos will be open 24 hours a day rendering a bonanza of DWI drivers on the road.
Finally, there is a moral question. The Maryland State Constitution states there would be 5 casino locations in Maryland. The investors and owners of the 5 casinos considered that agreement to be an honorable handshake. They were betrayed. Now, the citizens of Maryland will be betrayed when the gaming industry and its revenues disappear just like America's steel making industry disappears. All of this will happen because the proposal passed by 1 vote.
Del. Pat McDonough
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