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Letters to the editor - 3/11/03

March 11, 2003

Selling out on slots



To the editor:


In providing four racetracks with an absolute monopoly to provide slot machine gambling, this legislation delivers to a select group of wealthy, politically-connected individuals an asset that is worth many hundreds of millions of dollars.

Because the monopoly is not being auctioned off in an open manner to the highest bidder, it is incumbent upon the legislature to ensure that, in granting this monopoly, it adheres to the highest standard of fiduciary obligation in obtaining the best economic deal for taxpayers, while allowing track owners to earn an adequate return on capital investment.

Every dollar lost in the state's negotiations with the tracks will be a dollar unavailable to meet the pressing social needs of our citizens.

The Maryland Tax Education Foundation recently completed a detailed study showing how profitable a slots monopoly is under the Ehrlich plan.

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The track owners' principal critique of our study is our assumed $600 daily win per slot machine. They say this number is too high, no other market achieves this win and only $300 per day is obtainable.

Their argument conveniently ignores (a) slot wins exceeding $600 per day in selected Chicago markets and (b) the fact that the Baltimore/Washington Metro area will have far fewer slot machines per capita than either Chicago or Detroit, the two most similar markets. Adjusting for the projected scarcity of machines in our area relative to Detroit and Chicago, an objective analysis must conclude that a $600 daily win per machine is sensible.

Accordingly, the state's arrangement should reflect an assumed daily win of at least $600. The licensing fee should be $350 million or higher, and the tracks' share of the win should not be more than 25 percent. To do otherwise is to give away the store at a time when our neediest citizens require state support.

Jeff Hooke
Director, Maryland Tax
Education Foundation




'Violent' actors want peace?



To the editor:


With the U.S. on the cusp of a destructive war, so many ideas are transpiring with regard to the need for more discussion before we burn our proverbial bridges. It is interesting to listen to the numerous movie stars and singer/songwriters express their opinions on the nature of war and its impact.

We as a country seem to perk up in awe when these "Hollywood icons" espouse their political views. Could these be the same people receiving enormous amounts of money by embracing violence in all fashions through the characters they portray or songs they sing?

But, if questioned, the response is "it is only acting or just a song in the guise of free speech." If these actors/singers want to give credence to their ideals, they need to "act the part." I guess the end justifies the means. Being a star or having a lot of money has clouded our views of humanity and who deserves respect. It is time for the average hard-working American to have a voice because, unfortunately, in all aspects of life, "money talks."

Involvement in any war affects us all and we need to pull together and rid this country of the destruction in our own back yard. I might add that I firmly believe in total security for our country and the necessity of our military protection. It is ludicrous to think that this is a new war but if it is going to be defended, it should only be against any attacks on our country. The criteria to become a U.S. citizen has eroded along with general pride and integrity.

It is hammered home that citizens can change or affect major political ideas and actions by simply going to the polls. Our votes are prefaced with the illusion that the person(s) we select will always do the right thing. After that, one can only hope and pray. It is time to take responsibility for our actions individually and collectively while mending our fences, or we all lose.

B. Graff
Hagerstown

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