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Letters to the editor

September 06, 2008
(Page 2 of 2)

Seldom is heard a word, pro or con, on TV/radio or is printed in newspapers. From my perspective, an uninformed electorate is unacceptable on this crucial issue.

For starters, supporters of slots estimate that they will generate $600 million or more annually. Gov. Martin O'Malley and many local unions have already spouted these claims.

Bu, alas, these figures were determined almost two years ago, prior to $4-a-gallon gas, higher grocery prices and the horrible housing mortgage mess. In short, the economy has worsened so significantly that I strongly challenge such unsupported financial claims.

Unless we get slots approved, they warn, we must slash state expenditures and raise taxes. These "scare tactics" are the usual politician rhetoric and should be ignored.

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Another "pro" argument for slots is always that Marylanders travel to Delaware and West Virginia to spend up to $400 million annually on slots. Therefore, we can recapture this lost revenue by having slots within our borders. However, the convenience of slots means a loss of sales tax dollars, as they are not subject to the 6 percent sales tax, as is just about everything we buy is these days. With the purchase of "basic" need items, we generate millions in state revenue; yet, money conveniently shifted to slots doesn't recoup any of the $400 million advocates claim we are losing. Also, gasoline taxes will decline, as it will no longer be necessary to travel to Delaware and West Virginia to play the slots. That's some big retention revenue for Maryland, indeed.

A third pro-slots argument claims that such gambling would save our sagging horse-racing industry by subsidizing race purses. According to a recent report from the nonpartisan Maryland Tax Education Foundation, Maryland race-horse winnings go to out-of-state owners. The slots proposal calls for one-sixth of the money generated (about $100 million, advocates hope) to go to the horse-racing industry. However, 80 percent of that money would go to out-of-state owners and to Maryland's wealthiest breeders, leaving what amounts to "pocket change" for local owners struggling to get by.

Again, it's another logically weak argument for a "yes" vote on the November proposal.

Without analyzing the "crime argument" against slots, I certainly hope this brief discussion will stimulate some serious thinking about slots for all of us. Come election day on Nov. 4, lobbying groups shouldn't be allowed to drown out this debate by bombarding voters with financial arguments they can't back up.

Blanton Croft
Hagerstown

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