It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Imagine. Your hard earned tax dollars being used by the governor to pay off friends and supporters. I know this is hard to believe, but it seems like it is happening yet again. Now it has become so obvious even his house organ the Washington Post has been forced to sit up and take notice.

The bill — which would take effect only if voters approve it in a referendum on slots next year — would allow a slots parlor within one mile of a particular intersection in Worcester County. Ocean Downs Racetrack is in that area. Somewhat less-restrictive language would allow a parlor at Laurel Park racetrack in Anne Arundel County.

Past or present owners of both tracks have contributed thousands of dollars to O’Malley and other Maryland politicians and stand to benefit financially if slots are legalized at those locations. O’Malley aides strongly deny that those donations affected the bill.


A gambling industry analyst who examined O’Malley’s bill said it appears to foster little competition for a majority of the licenses. “With three of the five locations, it’s definitely been greased,” said Jeffrey C. Hooke, managing director of a McLean-based corporate finance consulting firm. “I guess that’s just a fact of Maryland politics.”

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Yeppers. That’s just a fact of Maryland politics.

If we accept the argument that it is necessary or desirable to save Maryland’s horse racing “industry” and to do so we need legalized gambling, it doesn’t follow that said gambling needs to be located at a race track or even should be so located. From a purely efficient placement of the machines perspective it would seem to make more sense to put them in MVA offices rather than race tracks, for that matter.
It only makes sense in the context of repaying campaign contributions from the public coffers.

In a logical world gambling licenses would be available to whomever could pay the licensing fee and buy or lease the machine. But this is Maryland and people can’t be allowed to have too many choices. They might choose wrongly. So if we concede that the state government is going to meddle in their location, the meddling should be as slight as possible. I’d sign off on setting aside a location in downtown Baltimore. That seems fair enough. But the other locations should be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

The certainly should not be going to O’Malley cronies.

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