Here Come the Slots

I am agnostic on the subject of slots. They are, in my view, like most other human activities a null set unless taken to extremes. I don’t particularly understand the attraction but a lot of folks do. From my point of view a tax on those who have flunked math isn’t a bad thing especially when the alternative is increasing my taxes.

The O’Malley administration has signaled that it intends to aggressiviely pursue slots in the upcoming legislative session. For the first time the state secretary of labor, licensing, and regulation has come out in favor of slots:

“Tens of thousands of Marylanders are voting with their feet, and traveling to West Virginia and Delaware to play slots,” wrote Thomas E. Perez, secretary of labor, licensing and regulation, in the report to O’Malley released yesterday. “By not having slots, Maryland has already left hundreds of millions of dollars in potential general fund revenue on the table, and the tables are located in West Virginia and Delaware.”

The conventional wisdom has long portrayed the slots fight as the immovable object in House Speaker Mike Busch against the irresistable force of Senate President Mike Miller. Just as a small stream of water steadily erodes a boulder, so has the constant pressure from various interests and the looming $150 billion “structrual deficit” eroded Busch’s opposition.

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In May, Speaker Busch indicated that he was no longer reflexively opposed to slots and there are indications that slots may be used, as they were at Charles Town, WV, to breathe new life into the moribund horse racing business.

Were slots tied to an aggressive program of cutting back government programs and expenses I’d be enthusiastic about this development. But the impasse over slots is one of the things that has saved Marylanders from a rapacious and gluttonous state government. Once that wall is breached O’Malley will be able to claim that he has cut state spending (assuming cutting unfilled jobs counts) and has added a new revenue stream and the budget deficit is still there and the only alternative will be for Marylanders to dig even deeper into their pockets.

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