Great Minds Think Alike

Apparently, I’m not the only cat who digs the idea of table games:

As Gov. Martin O’Malley makes a pitch for slot machine gambling as part of his attempt to address a $1.7 billion budget shortfall, a powerful retail lobby is asking that he go one step further by pushing for table games.

The Maryland Retailers Association, miffed by O’Malley’s inclusion of a state sales tax increase in his budget package, is suggesting instead that the state approve full casinos.

Without them, Maryland will lose customers to West Virginia, which has approved slots and table games in some jurisdictions, said Tom Saquella, president of the organization

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“We would support legislation that would involve table games and full casinos,” Saquella said. “We always felt that slots was good for the economy. We never bought this zero sum game.”

Though an O’Malley spokesman and other lawmakers said this week that table games are unlikely to be part of any tax package approved by the General Assembly this fall or during the next legislative session, some argue that if the state legalizes slots in coming months, a debate over casinos would be imminent – and unavoidable.

And that is a debate that we should have. We should be debating the utility of slots, and debating the utility of table gaming. And the Retailers are even trying to play let’s make a deal with the Administration on the gaming issue:

Representing about 700 businesses across Maryland, the retailers association is lobbying for O’Malley to include table games in any slots proposal. It is suggesting four locations: the Inner Harbor, National Harbor in Prince George’s County, and still-undetermined sites on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland.

In exchange, the retailers want O’Malley to drop plans to increase the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent. O’Malley hopes to raise $730 million by increasing the sales tax and extending it to health club memberships, property management and other services.

This is something that on which we need to have a full and serious discussion in Annapolis.


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