Saturday, October 13, 2012

Worth the gamble.

Here in my home state of Maryland there are a few questions on the ballot that are getting a good bit or discussion going. One is about marriage equality (Question 6), and some of my previous writings should clearly tell you that I am very much in favor of affording same sex couples the same rights that my wife and I possess. Another is gambling (Question 7), and the subject of today's post. In short, the question is posing the building of a gambling resort and allowing existing 'slots only' casinos to add table games. I know people that are against it, and when you switch on a local television channel just about every other add it either for or against it. The the web adds that I see daily also join the debate regularly. Trouble is, the 'problems' I've heard presented against passing this seem to come up quite short to me. Lets review...

School Funding
Question 7 is touted as a money maker for education. The vague claim that it will generate millions of dollars for schools is mentioned as a reason to vote 'yes'. However, those against it argue that the money will not be guaranteed to go toward education, and that even if it does go to the education trust, that they can and have take it back to cover budget shortfalls. Okay, noted. But lets think about this for a second. The intent is for revenue to go toward education, but it can't be guaranteed to go or stay there and I say "So what?". More money in the state budget means more flexibility. That means that more can be put toward education, or it can also go elsewhere if needed. I hate the idea of money being taken from education, and would love for every dime to go to our schools, but let's be realistic. More money can only be a good thing no matter where it goes. If the funding goes elsewhere, that will mean that the funding for education would remain the same. But, that would also mean that there is more funding to go around and that none, or less, would have to be robbed from the education budget. Something that would be welcome since millions have been taken from education to be used toward other ends in the past. The way I see it, it's a win-win either way, and has the potential to be a very big win for education if serious work is put toward fixing the state budget so that most of this new funding can stay in education.

Jobs
Question 7 also touts that it will create thousands of jobs. Those against Question 7 state that there are no guarantees that the construction jobs needed to build this casino would go to an in state company or Maryland residents. True, but where's the problem that makes this a deal breaker? Lets look at the different possibilities.

1) The contract goes to a local company and all the workers are local as well. That's the best case scenario that gets Marylanders working and keeps all the money in the state.

2) The contract goes to an out of state contractor, who employs local residents to take on the job. This one splits the money up. The company will be the one getting paid by the casino, but then a good portion of it will be passed on to the Marylanders that are being employed by the project. Also, while the contractor may be out of state, they will likely be using local suppliers for lumber and all other construction materials needed.

3) The contract goes to an out of state contractor who brings along an out of state crew. This possibility means the least amount on money stays in Maryland, but a good portion will still stay in state in one way or another. Just like the previous possibility, the lumber and all other building supplies will still come from local suppliers. If the contractor does bring his own crew along, it will mean no, or few, construction jobs for Marylanders, but there are still other areas that would keep money in the state. If an out of state crew is taking on the job, they will need someplace to stay through the duration of the project. This means additional revenue for local hotels and motels. These workers will also need to eat, so local markets and restaurants would receive an up tick in sales. Also, when they aren't working, they may want some recreation. This means money for local theaters and shops. So even the worst case situation doesn't leave Maryland at a financial loss.

Furthermore, what about permanent jobs? After all, someone is going to have to work there once the casino is built. Some claim that it would create four thousand jobs, but opponents say that it will only create about two and a quarter thousand. The way I see it, creating 2,250 jobs it a lot better than creating 0 jobs. Obviously, I'd prefer 4,000 new jobs to be created to get Marylanders working, but I'll take 2,250jobs before I take 0.

Economy
This is one area that the 'no' crowd are silent on. It is estimated that $550 million leave Maryland annually to out of state casinos. A premium quality local competitor would likely cause a good portion of that money to stay in Maryland. There is also the added bonus that this Maryland casino could draw in money from out of state in the same fashion that out of sate casinos are currently drawing money out of Maryland.

When I look at these points, I don't see the huge outlying negatives that those greatly opposed to Question 7 seem to feel are glaring. All I see is positives and potential. This is all coming from someone that does not enjoy or even see the point or 'fun' in gambling. If built, I will never set foot in the resort casino, but at the same time, I see something that will at the very least give people jobs and make Maryland more money, and at the best could give education the added funding it needs and deserves.

-BH

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