Why the Constitutional Amendment authorizing Slots is dumb

And I’m not just talking about the abdication of responsibility from our elected officials. I’m talking about the general bickering and bitching about slots locations:

A key House subcommittee today recommended adding Frederick County and possibly Harford County to the list of sites where slot machines would be placed and knocking out Worcester County, home to the Ocean Downs racetrack and a site strongly opposed by many local officials and residents.

House leaders say a location near Interstates 70 and 270 would attract gamblers from Montgomery County who now drive to Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia. They said they believe it would be significantly more lucrative to the state than the slots parlor at Ocean Downs envisioned in the gambling bill that Gov. Martin O’Malley submitted and the state Senate approved.

Both the O’Malley administration and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have said they don’t want to see major changes to the slots legislation at this late date in the current special session of the General Assembly. But they have also said they will be flexible about the details as long as the legislature votes to put a slot machine gambling referendum on the November 2008 ballot.

OK, the long and the short of it is that nobody can agree on the details of the slots plan. Everybody wants the slots in differently places, mainly due to rampant NIMBY-ism.

And that’s the problem with the slots plan as currently proposed. Making it a Constitutional Amendment will artificially limit the location of slots parlors to certain jurisdictions or, in the cases of one of the plans floating out there, limiting them to certain geographic coordinates within municipalities or defined areas. That is not the point of a Constitutional document. This amendment goes into specific details about plans that would make the location of slots parlors difficult or impossible to change since any change to those locations would require the approval of the voters.

A Constitutional Amendment on slots, at least one as specific as the legislators are currently discussing, is a problem hatched by legislators to address a concern the voters really don’t have. The voters want the legislators to deal with the issues. The legislators want to pass the buck the voters. Ultimately, the legislative leadership is abdicating its responsibility to lead, and in doing so handcuffing whatever potential profit the state may have from slots revenue given the constraints of using a Constitutional Amendment as a change agent (and as political cover)…

(Crossposted)






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