This site has devoted a lot of time and attention (and for very good reason) to state referendums like the gay marriage ban in California and anti abortion referendum in South Dakota. But today I’d like to ask fellow Kossacks to spend a little time on this last day before the election to also consider Question 2 on the Maryland state ballot to legalize slot machines --- and to ask all Marylanders to vote "No" to this question!!!
Text of Question 2 here: http://www.elections.state.md.us/...
To tell you the truth, I am actually a little embarrassed that it is the Democrats in Maryland, including Governor O’Malley, who have pushed this imitative. From several perspectives, it is extremely bad policy, including the major issue that gambling functions as a regressive tax, taking money away from mostly poor and middle income people. Giving out mixed messages much?
Bizzarely, this particular referendum is also to create an actual amendment to the state constitution to legalize slot machines. Such an amendment is unprecedented. I thought our state constitution was sort of a special document that among many things protects our Right to Free Speech (article 10) and our Right to Petition Grievances (article 13). What in he&% are we doing amending such an important document in favor of a creepy revenue raising scheme that favors the gambling industry?!
Proponents of course argue in favor of Question 2 because they say Maryland flat out needs the money. The state budget, like so many other states, has a major deficit and schools are suffering. Money from the slots would bring in millions of badly needed dollars into the state for its education system.
But revenue estimated to be generated by slot machines in Maryland has been greatly overestimated. A recent Washington Post editorial also urging Marylanders to vote "No" on question 2 stated that:
Slots, they promise, will plug Maryland's $430 million budget gap, revive the faltering horse-racing industry and inject needed cash into schools. Marylanders shouldn't fall for this neon mirage. Slots will pump money into the pockets of out-of-state racehorse owners and casino operators; only a fraction of the revenue will trickle to schools.
Advocates claim that slots will raise $600 million, half of which will go to schools. The figures are not credible. The $600 million estimate comes from the [Maryland Department of Legislative Services] ... Putting aside concerns about the report's objectivity -- Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration supports the referendum -- the projection was made before the economy worsened. Casinos in neighboring states have seen a drop in revenue of 15 to 20 percent in the past year. Mr. Perez admits that he would revise his initial estimate downward, to about $500 million. A recent study by [researchers with the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis & Research at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County] warns that slots revenue could even be lower.
In addition to not raising promised revenue, Question 2 will of course cost our state millions on the other end through increased social problems such as gambling addiction, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, and broken families. Just how much is unfortunately unknown. The US government has never done proper studies about the actual effects of gambling on Americans’ health and well-being. In 2007, the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would give the National Institutes of Health $20 million for research on gambling addiction, but that bill has since gone nowhere. We have been at the mercy of the gambling industry, which funds much of the research through organizations such as The National Center for Responsible Gambling (‘snort!’). Results of independent studies about slot machines and gambling are disturbing, including four studies that show the damage that is done when casinos are nearby. According to these studies, Marylanders can look forward to these statistics: (1) A casino within 10 miles of home is associated with a 90% increase in the odds of being a pathological or problem gambler. (2) For every increase of one standard deviation in neighborhood disadvantage the odds of being a pathological or problem gambler increase by 69%. (3) For every additional form of legal gambling in his or her state, the respondent’s odds of having gambled in the past year increase by 17%. Closer Casinos Bring Higher Addictions. Other studies equivocate slot machines with the pathological effects of crack cocaine Machines and Rapid Onset of Addiction and show links between alcohol and gambling addiction. Alcohol and Gambling Addictions Linked
For some traditionalists in Maryland, the final argument for Question 2 is that it will help to save the beloved Preakness and the horse racing industry. As far as I am concerned, this is an industry hardly worth saving, given the long record of grotesque animal abuse in this industry. And this is coming from me, whose grandparents raised race horses and who followed horse racing for many years before I finally realized out how cruel it all was. We have had horses break down on national TV and later be euthanized in the past two Triple Crown series (Barbaro and Eight Belles). The winner of the Kentucky Derby this year (Big Brown) became part of a major scandal about steroid use in racing. Every day all over our country race horses are pumped up to the hilt on steroids and pain medication and race with broken legs and fractured hips. Even in states like Maryland who have banned steroid use at the track, the penalties for breaking the bans are laughable and have no impact on any other performance enhancing drugs pumped into these poor animals away from the track.
It is ironic that we have recently learned that our entire economy has been run like a Saturday night poker game at the Bada Bing Club. For a whole host of reasons we should know that gambling is not the solution to our economic woes. I feel certain that Marylanders are resourceful enough to figure out how to raise needed funds for our schools and close our budget gap in other less-socially destructive ways.
VOTE NO to Question 2 in Maryland!