Editorial: Ulman support for gambling expansion is unfortunate

Last week, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman stood by two of his fellow county executives at a news conference in Silver Spring and endorsed the question on this fall's ballot that would expand gambling in Maryland.

We wish he hadn't.

Question 7 would allow for the opening of a sixth casino in Maryland and table gambling at the existing casinos, which is banned now. Supporters say the expansion is needed to bring in needed money for the state's schools, money — they argue, that is now going to neighboring states that already have expanded gambling.

We're not here to argue that state-approved gambling is a bad idea — it's a little late for that. But Question 7 specifically is a bad idea, a poorly crafted bill whose faults far outweigh its benefits.

With only three of the already approved five casinos open, and business slowing at two of them, the prospects for big success at a sixth are not guaranteed. Moreover, the General Assembly's bill dramatically boosted tax breaks for casino owners — and therefore their take of the profits – at the expense of the state. That means less money for public schools, the rationale for expanding gambling most often used by Ulman and other supporters.

In fact, as The Baltimore Sun has pointed out, there is no guarantee of any additional money at all for the schools from a sixth casino. The money would go into the Education Trust Fund, and legislators, as they have in the past with gambling money, might offset that extra money by putting in less general fund money and use the extra gambling revenues elsewhere.

The sixth casino would likely be at National Harbor in Prince George's County, which is why Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker has been beating the drum so loudly for it. But Ulman has no such compelling reason for supporting such a questionable proposal.

Unless, of course, you consider that a smart local politician from a relatively small county but with statewide ambitions might consider it wise to make friends with political leaders in such big counties as Prince George's and Montgomery, not to mention at the state level.

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