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Question 7: A Primer on Maryland's Expanded Gambling Referendum

A look at what's at stake—and how the battle is being waged.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT

Question 7 asks voters whether they favor a plan to expand gambling in Maryland that would:

  1. Allow table games in addition to existing slot machines;
  2. Increase the statewide cap on the number of slots;
  3. Permit a sixth casino in the state, to be located at National Harbor in Prince George's County.

The ballot question is a result of legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly during its 2012 special session (view the House and Senate roll calls) and signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley. Several other portions of the law are not subject to a referendum.

Slot machines have been permitted in the state since voters approved a gaming referendum (59 percent to 41 percent) in November 2008. Passage of Question 7 would mark a significant shift, however, bringing Maryland's casinos closer in line with those of Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Under the law, casino operators would also be permitted to keep a larger share of revenue—somewhere between 39 and 51 percent—as compensation for the added competition. But new business brought in by the expansion is still expected to boost the proceeds bound for the Maryland Education Trust Fund, which provides school aid to local jurisdictions.

According to The Washington Post, the nonpartisan Maryland Department of Legislative Services expects the current setup to generate about $260 million for the trust fund this fiscal year and about $580 million four years from now. Introducing table games and a sixth casino would add another $60 million to that tally this year and $199 million in fiscal year 2019, the DLS estimates (view a Post graphic on the projected changes).

Question 7 has fueled enormous advertising efforts by supporters and opponents alike. Leading the charge are casino operators that stand to benefit, including MGM Resorts International, CBAC Gaming LLC, and The Peterson Companies.

Those expecting to lose revenue—particularly Penn National Gaming, which runs the competing Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia—are largely bankrolling the campaign against the measure.

 

WHAT IT SAYS, EXACTLY

"Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate 'table games' as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George’s County?"

  • For the Additional Forms and Expansion of Commercial Gaming
  • Against the Additional Forms and Expansion of Commercial Gaming

 

WHAT THEY'RE ARGUING

In support

  • The measure will funnel tens of millions of new dollars into the Maryland Education Trust Fund, which supports schools in communities across the state.
  • The law will prevent significant gambling revenue from leaving Maryland each year while drawing in many out-of-state customers.
  • The expansion will create new jobs, including both short-term construction work and permanent positions.
  • With the introduction of a casino, National Harbor can become a true resort destination, bringing additional non-gambling income into the state.

In opposition

  • The measure won't actually stimulate Maryland's schools, as the state formula for disbursing educational funding is not directly affected by the new law. Instead, the trust will simply be used to free up existing revenue streams for other purposes.
  • The new law is effectively a giveaway to the companies that run the casinos, offering lower tax rates and opening the door to further breaks in the future.
  • There's little evidence that the National Harbor casino will generate as many jobs as supporters claim—or that those jobs will go to Maryland residents.
  • Gambling has a disproportionate impact on low-income communities and breeds corruption. It should not be relied on further as a source of revenue.

 

WHAT THEY'RE WRITING

In support

In opposition

Unaligned

 

WHAT THEY'RE REPORTING

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