Supporters of the November referendum to allow slot-machines in Maryland may get a major infusion of cash, as much as $2 million, from Magna Entertainment, which owns Laurel Park and Pimlico in Baltimore, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. That would come on top of an unspcified amount expected to be put into the fray by Penn National Gaming, the Pennsylvania-based company that has an option on part of the Stewart property in Perryville, Cecil County that could host a slots venue if the referendum is approved.
The Magna money would be use to advance the campaign led by For Maryland For Our Future, the committee co-ordinating the pro-slots effort in the state. The anti-slots campaign is being headed by Stop Slots Maryland.
So what’s the money going to be used for? No doubt we will be bombarded with those nasty automated phone calls, negative TV and radio ads from both sides, and lots of litter in our mailboxes to be recycled. But for Cecil County residents, put aside the hype from both sides and the Sunday morning sermons from a vocal group of pastors warning us of the evils of gambling. (Run any bingo games lately, pastor?)
We already have gambling all over Cecil County: the state-sanctioned off-track betting parlor on Route 40, the fire companies and VFW halls that have perfectly legal gambling with half the proceeds going to local charities, and of course lottery tickets sold in every gas station and convenience store from Perryville to Cecilton. It is just a short drive from Cecil County to the slots at Delaware Park or Dover Downs and recent news reports in the Post and News-Journal have documented all those Maryland slot-players spending their money across the state line. Despite the dire warnings from the pulpit, no one has documented a spiraling suicide rate in the county from the gambling that is already going on.
The question for Cecil County voters, a majority of whom have to commute to jobs outside the county since employment prospects are dim here, is why not bring some jobs home? The county has one of the lowest college degree rates in the state– around 16 percent– so hospitality jobs, with benefits as Penn National provides at its PA facilities, would be very welcome for a lot of folks. And for those who complain about rising property taxes, the county’s share of revenues would go a long way toward stabilizing county revenues without putting all the burden on the backs of local taxpayers.
Gee, pastors, your congregation might even have a few extra bucks to put in the collection plate on Sundays…