O'Malley: Mr. Slots Is "Sick of" Slots
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is "sick of" slots. "Let's get beyond it.... Let's move on to other things," he said on a Baltimore radio talk show the other day.
Never mind that Maryland voters will have to endure months of campaigning and gambling industry money sloshing through the state's political process because this very same governor persuaded legislators to put the controversy to the voters this fall. Now the governor is sick of the issue and just wants to move on.
Somehow, we're supposed to ignore the fact that O'Malley has gone farther than his much more avowedly pro-slots predecessor in putting 15,000 slot machines in five locations around Maryland. Voters are somehow supposed to make sense of a man who on one hand says that slots are a "morally bankrupt" way to raise money for public endeavors, yet on the other hand pushes to use slots as the way to fill a $500 million budget shortfall.
The governor would now have us believe that he doesn't particularly care which way voters go on the issue.
But the voters have a responsibility here, one imposed on them by this governor. A new poll finds that a large majority of Maryland voters support the idea of state-sponsored slots gambling. A Baltimore Sun survey finds 56 percent of likely voters favor amending the state constitution to allow those 15,000 one-armed bandits. As an opponent of legalizing slots, I can no longer argue that the voters don't know what this decision would lead to: In fact, they know, and they don't care. The Sun poll finds that fully 64 percent of voters don't believe O'Malley's promise that slots would be restricted to five locations--they assume that gambling would spread to other locations, and that's fine with them. A plurality of those polled also believe that slots would lead to full-scale casinos, so there are no illusions out there about the "limited gambling" line that the industry and its political supporters push.
Now here's an even more intriguing bit: In the same poll, the same size majority that supports slots also believes that it is inappropriate to use state dollars to prop up the horse industry. In other words, voters do not buy the central argument that has been used for slots since the issue first came up many years ago. Voters see no nexus between legalizing gambling and trying to bolster a sport that is fading away.
Voters are savvy and skeptical folks. We like to have our hopes raised, to be inspired and led, but we're nobody's patsy--collectively, we see right through the pols' phony explanations. So even while I believe that it's wrong to fix a budget crisis by relying on dollars from poor people, I'm glad to see that Marylanders aren't buying the bit about how we need slots to save horse racing and its allied industries. I only wish the pols weren't so cynical as to refuse to raise revenues responsibly and to rely instead on sucking coins from retirees and the unemployed.
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