The Maryland Public Policy Institute
Two questions have gotten a lot of media attention recently: “Should we expand gambling in Maryland beyond the initial five slots casinos?” and “How should we expand gambling? With another casino site, table games, or both?”
I think it goes without saying that, eventually, we will have more casinos and we will allow table gaming. That’s just the way things go. A few years ago, we didn’t allow gambling at all; then we realized that we needed money.
It seems like the Maryland public has already decided that they want expanded gambling. Take a look at this poll (conducted by OpinionWorks), which shows that 58% want our legislators working harder on reaching an agreement to expand gambling and 55% support “adding table games, shifting ownership of the slot machines to the private operators, reducing the tax rate on slots revenues by 10 percent, and approving the Prince George’s facility.” It’s not a huge majority, but it is a majority nonetheless.
The poll also shows that 83% of respondents think that Maryland voters should be allowed to decide directly if gaming should be expanded. Now that is a huge majority.
This is a tough issue for me. On the one hand, I must admit that I am a libertarian who craves more power for the people and less in the hands of the government. On the other hand, this is a great example of why we have legislators in the first place: because making big decisions like this one is not something that should be done lightly, or without a significant amount of research.
For example, here’s a quick list of some questions that should be asked (and answered) before we vote to expand gambling:
<> Would building a sixth casino really increase total revenues, or would it just shift revenues from other sites to PG County?
<> Would we really make more money by allowing table gaming (considering that we would likely have to cut the government share of revenues by 10%)?
<> Is shifting ownership of slot machines something that is feasible without making additional concessions (like deeper cuts to the casino tax rate) to casino owners?
<> What kind of unanticipated problems do we see cropping up in areas that already have casinos (e.g. crime, traffic, or anything else)? Are they worth the trouble?
We may not like our legislators all the time, but it is their job to hire people to find out this kind of information so that they can make informed decisions when they cast their vote. In cases like this one, an informed decision from our elected representatives stands a greater chance of yielding the best result.
At least, that’s the hope. Perhaps I’m just being naïve.
Excellent post. As a fellow libertarian I thought you might be interested in this piece I wrote addressing the question of government by referendum and the faults of that approach, http://chestertownspy.com/2012/03/01/op-ed-voter-referendums-good-or-bad/#comments