The following letter was sent Monday by Harford County Executive David Craig to John Morton III, chairman of a group appointed by the governor to study gaming expansion in Maryland:
It is my understanding that Governor O'Malley has appointed you as chairman of the 11-member Work Group to Consider Gaming Expansion. I am writing to respectfully ask that the work group give due consideration to Harford County as one of the possible sites for any additional gaming licenses that would be granted in the state.
Furthermore, I ask that the PricewaterhouseCoopers study of the feasibility of gaming expansion that was recently commissioned by the state be directed to thoroughly analyze the economic benefits of locating a new casino in Harford County.
The presence of a casino in Harford County would generate tens of millions of dollars annually in new revenue for the state of Maryland. It would also provide a much needed source of revenue to the county at a time when we are being forced to accept more and more long-term funding obligations and unfunded mandates from the state, such as the shift of teacher pension costs. The latter alone will cost Harford Countians in excess of $10 million per year once fully phased-in, and severely limits our ability to provide additional funds to the Board of Education that it could use to provide pay increases for its teachers and staff.
I would like to see enabling legislation passed by the General Assembly which I would then direct to the people of Harford County for referendum. It would be my intention to use 100% of the local revenue such a facility would provide to fully fund the cost of the teacher pension shift and to make available additional PAYGo money for the construction and renovation of schools. Such a commitment should be part of the referendum. The people of Harford County could then decide if they support it on Election Day.
Although I have never been a strong believer in balancing one's budget through gaming revenue, the magnitude of the teacher pension shift warrants that we consider all options. This is one of a number of solutions that should be examined to mitigate the impact of this state action on the taxpayers that we serve.
While you may have concerns due to our proximity to the existing casino in Perryville, I feel that having two first rate gaming facilities in the area will make the Upper Chesapeake region a tourism hub, and will allow Maryland to better compete with Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey for regional visitors.
We would appreciate the opportunity to make a presentation to the work group, where we would be able to discuss the advantages of locating a casino in Harford County. I look forward to hearing from you.
David R. Craig
Harford County Executive