Though the latest call by Harford County Executive David R. Craig for the state to pass legislation to allow a casino to be built in the county has all the trappings of a campaign talking point, the idea is and has been a good one.
Going back to when the legislation allowing the already-approved slots parlors in Maryland was being drafted, there were pushes to put one of the operations in Harford County, possibly in the Havre de Grace area instead of where it ended up in Perryville.
Unfortunately, Harford County was removed as a possible slots site so the facade of keeping gambling out of the county could be maintained. Now Harford County has neither a public slots parlor nor are slot machines permitted in fraternal organization club houses like American Legion posts. As a result, the people of Harford County have plenty of opportunities to gamble by simply traveling to Cecil County — or the nearest state lottery outlet — but can't derive a few of the benefits of the gambling tax revenue. By contrast, Cecil County is awash in cash thanks to a state law that affords counties that host slots parlors a share of the take.
It's become clear that, while gambling no longer has the kind of special revenue generating status it had back in the days when the main options were Las Vegas, Atlantic City and foreign countries, public gaming parlors throughout the country remain cash cows for the corporate entities that run them as well as the governments that regulate and tax them.
Despite the ham-fisted management Maryland has imposed on the slots operations that have managed to open to date, they have been raking in the cash. These days, Maryland, even as it has failed to get all the slots parlors already allowed into operation, is considering more gambling sites and an expansion of gaming options.
In all honesty, if Maryland wants to ensure that gambling revenue achieves its full potential, the state will have to allow an array of games and site options to attract people from the neighboring states that also allow this form of entertainment.
When this reality sets in, Harford County would do well to position itself as a location for a gambling operation so it can reap some of the financial rewards afforded so far to relatively few places in the state.