The bill to expand casino gambling in Maryland that came out of the Senate Friday evening on an express train has slowed to freight-train speed in the House.
The House Ways & Means Committee held a five-hour hearing Friday as the Senate was wrapping up work on the bill, but a meeting of the House gambling subcommittee Saturday afternoon wound up being only an extended briefing with no action attempted on the bill. Delegates are expected to offer many amendments to the legislation later today, and on the floor Tuesday.
The final witness at the House Ways & Means hearing Friday provided some cautionary advice to the legislators. Unlike dozens of other witnesses representing the governor, competing counties, casinos and contractors, Ted Neuman of Lothian had nothing to gain or lose from the legislation.
Neuman, president of Tymatt, a stormwater contractor, was a Democratic member of the Montana House and Senate for eight years in the 1980s when that legislature approved slot machines.
Similar promises in Montana
“Everything we heard today we heard when I was in the legislature,” Neuman told the committee. “We were told that we would have huge influx in the general fund,” but it never materialized.
The Montana lawmakers approved “machines everywhere,” Neuman said, and each gambling parlor was accompanied by pawn shops and payday loan stores. “They’ve displaced a lot of other businesses.”
“What it did was took money from the people who weren’t making a lot of money and put it in the pocket of the gaming industry and caused a lot of local industries to be hurt because there was no disposable income,” Neuman said. “You saw a huge increase in embezzlements” directly related to gambling.
“The people who could least afford it were putting the money in the machines.”
“I know you’ve heard it all before,” Neuman said. “You’re kind of accelerating your trip down that road.”
“What you really need is some hard data,” he said. “Give it a couple of years and see what it looks like.”
Neuman’s arguments are familiar ones brought up by opponents of more gambling, but at the moment they have not stopped the slow moving freight train bringing table games and a sixth casino to Maryland.
Who were Harold Stassen
and Martin O’Malley? A former Republican Governor of Michigan (ran 12 times)
and a Democratic Governor (gambling Guru) of Maryland, respectively, who both had aspirations to be
Mr. Neuman offers sound advice to legislators that seem to have a bias against taking it.
Sounds like the back room deals and horsetrading are going full speed although the train itself has slowed.
This legislation contains contains horrific provisions that would eliminate free speech rights for Maryland citizens. Specifically, the draft bill would prohibit any “licensee,” “key employee”
of a licensee or other person “who owns an interest” in a gaming establishment
operating in Maryland from contributing to a candidate for “any public office
in the state”, a political party or other entity created to support a candidate
for public office in the state. In other
words, if you own or operate a gaming facility, or work for such an establishment and supervise more than two employees – two employees! – your right to free speech in Maryland will soon be gone.
Any person, regardless of their political orientation or
philosophy, must be repelled by this effort to suppress the rights of law
abiding citizens living or operating a business in the State of Maryland. Putting aside the obvious – citizens must be free
to express their views in the form of financial contributions to causes,
candidates or parties they support – how can our Governor (and those who
support these provisions) justify carving out a single business or class of
businesses for a political hit.
Do not fall for the canard that gambling is a “unique
business.” The fact is there are many
businesses that require state licenses – think horse racing – to operate and once such a legislative precedent
is set, there will be no logical restraint on the further exercise of state
power to limit the exercise of free speech of businesses or their “key”
employees that fall out of favor with Maryland’s political leaders.
Once this political genie is out of the bottle, there will
be no going back. These provisions must be eliminated from the bill.
Why consider the caveats from anyone who has experienced the unintended consequences of expanded gambling? Many in the legislature & in the governor’s mansion are like hungry sharks that smell $$ just ready for the taking. Given the voting record of so many of these august legislators & their so-called forward thinking leadership, we can rest assured that they will “kill the golden goose” yet again. 24/7 Vegas gambling in 6 locations without increasing the problems experienced by Montana, Atlantic City, Vegas? Dream on Annapolis, dream on!