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Senator Muse on Gambling

State senator urges General Assembly to move past gambling during special session.

The following letter was submitted by Sen. C. Anthony Muse, (D-Dist. 26) of Fort Washington.

The Only Gaming During a Special Session Should be Doubling Down on the People’s Business”  

Whether you support casinos in Maryland or not, one thing is certain, the proposed expansion of gaming will have no direct impact on the fiscal year 2013 budget.  In fact, projected revenues from a proposed casino in Prince George’s County would not be realized for nearly six years, at best; and projected revenues from table games are a few years off as well.

Further, the expansion of gaming hinges on the voters of Maryland agreeing to support the referendum, which some may say is likely, but there are no guarantees.  For these reasons, and many others, it seems irrational and irresponsible to tie the ability of the General Assembly to pass a responsible budget for this year to the condition that we send a question to referendum that may fail.  

This is a gamble that I don’t believe the state should take.Governor Martin O’Malley was right when he said, “Our republic was not built on gambling gimmicks, bingo games or bake sales.”  I believe that our republic was built on intellect, courage and humanity; and the future of our republic depends on brave men and women standing for the greater good and putting personal interests aside to get a job done for the citizens of Maryland. 

We ended this session with the people’s business unfinished, because the special interest of gaming dominated the closing days of the General Assembly.  As a result, Maryland must cut $512 million from education, public safety and other services.  

In addition, tuition rates will increase at state universities, making higher education less affordable for our young people. My home county, Prince George’s, will likely see a $65 million reduction in state aid, resulting in cuts to k-12 education, public safety and other services.

I understand that Senate President Mike Miller and County Executive Rushern Baker have a desire to bring slot machines and table games to Prince George’s County, but I believe it is mutually exclusive from this year’s budget and should be dealt with during the course of the regular session next year.  

I don’t believe it is worth gambling with the important issues that we as public servants must face today.   

Just a couple of weekends ago, there were five killings and four shootings in Prince George’s, yet we are now risking cuts to public safety.  Conditioning this year’s budget on gaming is at best poor judgment, or at worse one of the greatest abuses of power that this state has ever seen.

The state of Maryland is facing a structural deficit, and yet we allowed one special interest to potentially cost taxpayers additional money to bring the General Assembly back into session to pass the budget that should have been and could have been passed in the 90 days the people have allotted for us.  If we allow gaming to play a role during a special session, shame on us! 

We would be sending a message to the world that Maryland can be bought and bossed by special gaming interests, and that we are willing to sacrifice education, healthcare, public safety and transportation for the promise of revenues generated by slot machines and table games.  I believe the people of Maryland deserve better of us.  Let’s not gamble with their future.

The op-ed was edited due to an error reporting that Prince George's County Schools were ranked last in the state's education system.

Michael B. Cron April 26, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Amen!
Dana Schwartz April 26, 2012 at 10:40 PM
"Further, the expansion of gaming hinges on the voters of Maryland agreeing to support the referendum" Why doesn't it hinge on the voters who will be most affected by the casinos - those within 5-10 miles of the proposed site(s)? It is ludicrous to expect the majority of Marylanders to care about something that may never have any impact on their own homes and quality of life, and the organized gambling interests and their local supporters know this. We've seen this time after time in Laurel with outside interests wanting to take advantage of our location far from the decision makers and other voters in the state and adjoining counties, and I see no reason to think it will be any different for the unfortunate Prince George's County residents near the Harbor and those near the current slots locations.
Locs1957 April 27, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Thank you god, a voice of reason...
Richard April 27, 2012 at 04:17 PM
The simplest solution would be to get rid of Mike Miller. He has had too much power for too long. Without him the gambling interest would not have a foothold.
Old Gaffer May 02, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Probably many/most of the people who read this are too young to remember a time when (a) Maryland had slots (and Waldorf had Las Vegas - name entertainment) and (b) there was no county piggy-back income tax. The two are intrinsically related. MD had a healthy slot-machine industry in Charles, Anne Arnudel, and a few other counties for as long as I can remember (I'm 59) and as long as the slots were operating, there was no county piggy-back income tax. The year AFTER the slots were banned the piggy back tax came in as a TEMPORARY measure (and capped by the voter's at 50% of the state income tax - a figure long since exceeded) until the State found a way to replace the tax revenue LOST when slots were outlawed. Well, the State has found a way to replace that revenue stream - it's called bring back slots (and table games), and it can't happen quickly enough for this PG county resident. And as soon as the slots are up and running, rescind the County's ability to further tax my income. The simple fact is that the liberal "leadership" of this state has an insatiable appetite for my money, and a, unfortunately narrow focus of where to get it.

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