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Two weeks ago Maryland voters approved Question 7, which authorized the opening of a sixth casino in the state. The measure also allows for all existing casinos to add table games such as blackjack and roulette, and to stay open twenty-four hours a day. Four years ago voters had got the ball rolling with the authorization of slot machines at five locations, three of which have since opened.
The recent campaign, backed by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and heavily financed by Vegas-based MGM Hotels and Resorts, was the most expensive political campaign in Maryland’s history. Penn National, a rival casino who operates their flagship location in Charles Town, WV, kept up with MGM’s spending and matched them dollar for dollar. They felt that MGM’s opening of a glitzy ‘destination resort’ would end up costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
MGM has promised that the new casino, with increased hours and additional types of gambling available, would lead to thousands of jobs and around $200 million per year in additional money for education. Gambling is a type of voluntary tax, meaning that it doesn’t apply to you unless you engage in the activity, and all proceeds from that are supposed to go into Maryland schools. Something that would benefit both Penn National and MGM is the reduction in tax they will be required to pay, because of the new revenue that the casino would bring to Maryland.
Right now commercial casinos can be found in twenty-three states, bringing in $23.9 billion in revenue during fiscal year 2010. Forty-three states have governments which sponsor education lotteries, yet some research has shown that states with lotteries spend less on education over time than those with them. It remains to be seen what the ultimate outcome will be for Maryland.