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With gambling revenue exceeding estimates, a new casino set to open later this month and another on the drawing board for a 2016 opening, it would be easy for state officials to see the millions of dollars flowing in to various state funds as a bottomless well, but gaming revenue declines in neighboring states should serve as a warning about the danger of propping up state budgets with this type of revenue source.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency said last month that in a year-to-year comparison, June 2014 casino revenue increased from June 2013 by $5,556,727, or 8.4 percent. June 2014's combined statewide revenue from Maryland's four casinos totaled $72,054,032.

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Last month, Prince George's County Council gave the green light to MGM Resorts International's plans for a casino at National Harbor, which is slated to open in 2016, and Horseshoe Baltimore casino's opening is slated for later this month, promising even more revenue in the coming years.

Or not.

In Atlantic City, four casinos are slated to close this year, taking with them an estimated 8,000 jobs, and declining revenue from gaming has negatively impacted state programs funded by gambling. Delaware is also experiencing declines, as are other areas as more and more states get in to the gambling business.

Back when Maryland approved gaming there was considerable discussion about the number of facilities that should be allowed. Adding the latest casinos to the mix brought considerable resistance as those with established facilities talked about saturation points, and worried about declines in revenue because of too much competition.

Those worries likely are coming true. Hollywood Casino Perryville, which was the first Maryland gambling facility when it opened in September 2010, generated $7,012,958 from both slot machines and table games in June. That represents a 9.9 percent decrease from June 2013, or $771,856.

Casino at Ocean Downs also saw a slight, .1 percent decline in June 2014 from June 2013.

Maryland Live, meanwhile, increased 9.9 percent and Rocky Gap Resort, which opened in May 2013, saw a 50.24 percent increase over June of last year.

For casino operators, the trend seems to be one in which gamblers gravitate more to the facility which has the newest offerings. Enticing customers in the face of so much competition is going to become increasingly difficult. And while we may be benefitting from some additional revenue from outside the state as gamblers come to check out the new facilities, the fact is that it will be increasingly difficult to lure them here as facilities open elsewhere.

Maryland is still enjoying the relative newness of legalized gambling, and as a result the state is reaping the rewards. But officials need to look at the problems being experienced in neighboring states, and plan for the day when we too are scrambling to find gamblers, and the flood of money going into the state's budget slows to a trickle.

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