Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

"Primary" Purpose Of This Blog: Make You Rich

Maryland's highest court agrees that the state's proposed wording of the slots referendum that will appear on this November's ballot was misleading. So the court, like the judges in a lower court, told the state it must add a word: Instead of saying merely that the "purpose" of slot machines is to raise money for education, the ballot must now specify that collecting money for schools is the "primary purpose," at least perhaps allowing voters to realize that some (or nearly all) of the slots dollars go to other purposes.

In fact, of course, Maryland schools would get only a tiny fraction of the money that gets plunked into slot machines. Try six cents of every dollar.

This is like saying that your "primary purpose" when you go to buy groceries is paying the sales tax. Or like saying that the "primary purpose" of eating in a restaurant is to leave a tip. Or that the "primary purpose" of going to work every day is to earn money to pay for Medicare.

In fact, 87 percent of each dollar dumped into a slot machine gets paid back to winners. Of the remaining 13 percent, a third goes to the big, for-profit companies that will be given the licenses to run Maryland's proposed five slots casinos. Another 9.5 percent goes to horse track owners and purses for horse races. Only then do you get to the portion that would roll into the state's coffers for education and local governments. That share, according to Lu Pierson, president of the League of Women Voters, amounts to a mere six or seven percent of the whole gambling dollar.

"That would be fair wording on the ballot," Pierson says. She says Maryland voters--even after the wording change ordered by the Court of Appeals yesterday--will go to the polls "without a clear understanding of where the money would go. The actual primary purpose is to reward gamblers who play the game."

How the state's judges could endorse a rewording that is simply untrue is a story of political weakness masquerading as compromise. But the great majority of Maryland's political establishment has lined up behind the false promise of slots, and it appears that a majority--but perhaps a dwindling majority--of Maryland voters are ready to take the plunge. Scott Arceneaux of Marylanders United To Stop Slots says the one-word change the court decided on is the result of "the legislative maneuvering and manipulation of the process by the slots lobby."

A new poll has pro-slots advocates a bit worried, as it shows support for slots dropping by five percent in the past three months. But the pro side is still up by 58 percent to 38 percent in that survey conducted for the pro-slots group. Another survey had the pro side up by a tighter margin, 49 percent to 43 percent.

Whatever the current state of play, the fact remains that all sides deserve an honest debate about what slots would mean, and presenting voters with loaded, inaccurate language on the election ballot is a pretty slimy way to do business.

Because pretending that using six percent of a dollar for something makes it the "primary purpose" of the transaction is like arguing that the "primary purpose" of this here blog is to present you with pearls of wisdom that will make you rich. Hey, I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but I bet you'd agree that that's not the "primary purpose." (And thanks for reading even if you don't hit it big.)


By Marc Fisher |  September 16, 2008; 8:28 AM ET
Previous: Union Station Movie Theaters To Close | Next: Empathy Bowl '08: Palin vs. Obama

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Nice try, Marc. Your convoluted analogies that confuse revenue source replenishment with profit distribution do absolutely nothing to shed light on the slots arguement. How about this: the primary purpose for buying gasoline is to pay retribution to the heirs of dinosaurs.

Would you prefer that slots be programmed to pay 5 cents on the dollar instead of 87 cents? That certainly would generate more income for education. Moron.

Posted by: NoVa | September 16, 2008 8:52 AM

Typical Liberal Marc. God forbid anyone should make a profit at anything. I guess the owners should just donate the f**king machines and the tracks just pony (hah!) up their space, and build and operate the buildings, out of the goodness of their blessed hearts.

Posted by: Stick | September 16, 2008 9:15 AM

hi Mark - interesting points. the other thing that is not mentioned in the referendum wording is that the additional money to education does not necessarily supplement current education funding. In every case in the past (lotteries the most recent example), they did earmark some of the profit for education. But they also reduced the education funding coming from the general fund by an equal amount. So, while I am not against slots, I also don't trust our "leaders" to use these profits wisely, we are just giving them additional money to waste.

Posted by: jen | September 16, 2008 9:42 AM

Why not just go all in and allow Las Vegas Style Casinos in Western MD, Ocean City and maybe one other location.
Slots appeal to those least able to afford their losses.

With Casinos MD can also get room tax and food tax revenue etc. And it will provide more jobs.

Either you go all in or not. Shame Jefferson Cty WVA citizens didnt vote for real casinos.

Slot machines are like massage parlors only offering a release.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 9:54 AM

Before, I was struggling to pay my rent, buy groceries and still have something left at the end of the month.

Now, with the Patented Marc Fisher Make You Rich System(tm), I have more money than I know what to do with! I can afford to subscribe to the daily newspaper, buy homes as an investment and even bid on collapsing Wall Street firms!

Thanks, Marc Fisher!

Posted by: BobT | September 16, 2008 10:08 AM

Marc, are you sure your math is right?

"87 percent of each dollar dumped into a slot machine gets paid back to winners." OK, that's 87 cents for every dollar gambled, paid out to winners. 13 cents left over.

"Of the remaining 13 percent, a third goes to the big, for-profit companies..." OK, one third of 13 cents is 4.3 cents, which leaves 8.7 cents leftover.

"Another 9.5 percent goes to horse track owners and purses for horse races." But there's only 8.7 cents remaining. Where is the .8 cent difference coming from?

"Only then do you get to the portion that would roll into the state's coffers for education and local governments. That share, according to Lu Pierson, president of the League of Women Voters, amounts to a mere six or seven percent of the whole gambling dollar." But there's nothing left.

These numbers don't add up.


Posted by: Claudius | September 16, 2008 10:43 AM

Wouldn't life be great if all revenue was profit.

Posted by: FourthandEye | September 16, 2008 10:57 AM

Claudius: The additional 9.5 percent that goes to horse tracks and purses comes out of the 13 percent of total revenue that's not returned to gamblers. So it's 9.5 percent of that 13 percent remainder.

Therefore, you have 13 cents of every dollar in slots revenue that stays in the casino, and of that amount, a total of about 44 percent goes to the casino operator and the horse industry, and only then does the state gets its cut of about six or seven cents.

Posted by: Fisher | September 16, 2008 11:38 AM

Who cares how many cents go to education or anywhere else. The track owners should not be subsidized. If they can not run a profitable business, then GET OUT!!!!!

Let somebody else with good business sense and a usefull product come into the market place.
I do not know how anybody could support public dollars of mostly low income people go to support track betting and hughe multimillion dollar corporations.

Posted by: RockBoy | September 16, 2008 11:45 AM

I suppsoe the debate hinges on the idea of "profits" versus "money in". It's not like a movie theater where the comapny keeps all of the customer's money in exchange for a service since the whole idea is to try and win money. Being that the tax rate on the profits is actually 67%, Maryland would make out like a bandit compared to most other states with gambling. Nevada is, I beleive, 6% of profits.

Personally, I find myself kinda split. I guess it's a "voluntary tax", but it's still a sneaky way to do things. That said, I'll probably vote for it. No sense in letting WVA, DE and PA soon enough mooch off of us.

Posted by: EricS | September 16, 2008 11:47 AM

Marc--thanks for clarifying. The only ones guaranteed to get a revenue stream out of this are the tracks, casino operators and the state. Yes, the sizable bulk of revenues go to the winners, but the odds against winning will be pretty steep, I'm sure. Still, as EricS noted, it's basically a tax on the stupid. It would be nice, however, if the state could balance it's books in an upfront manner.

Posted by: Claudius | September 16, 2008 12:05 PM

The perfect way to express one's displeasure with the cowardly MD judges, the slimy pro-slots lobby, and the pathetic way the MD State budget is "managed" by the firmly entrenched and corrupt Democrats in the State is to simply vote "NO" to slots. What could be easier?

Posted by: Realist2 | September 16, 2008 12:37 PM

I agree with RockBoy. Why are we so worried about horse racing? It's a cruel sport to begin with, about which fewer and fewer people care. Why are we providing public funding for this form of entertainment that doesn't appeal to the majority of citizens?

Posted by: Joe Bloe | September 16, 2008 12:38 PM

Marc, by your logic, the "primary" purpose of allowing slots is for gamblers to Win Big Money (the 87%). What matters is how the net proceeds are distributed, not the gross. On that basis, education would be getting a much larger share of the profits from gambling, which is a fairer comparison. Hard to tell exactly how much, though, because your figures don't add up (6% + 9.5% + 1/3 of 13% + 87% adds up to more than 100%).

Posted by: Dodo | September 16, 2008 1:39 PM

I hate slots. I play table games. I'm going to vote against and encourage others to do the same, until we get legalized poker, blackjack and craps as equally acceptable alternatives.

At least table games require the exercise of our brains.

Posted by: Pokerfan | September 16, 2008 1:56 PM

I'm voting for slots and you people who are against it need to make an appointment with your doctor to remove the bug that's up your @ss.

Posted by: Fred | September 16, 2008 2:01 PM

You might also add some analysis on the tax revenue projected to be collected from income tax on winnings, corporate income tax on the profits of the operator, and payroll tax from the employees.

Maybe the slots will lure some of those former Marylanders who fled from the higher taxes to Virginia.

Ironic that you reference the Maryland political establishment and negate to mention Democrat, had this been Ehrlich you probably would have used the R word a dozen times.

Posted by: reducemytaxes | September 16, 2008 5:40 PM

is ther any particular reason there is a limiation on where slot machines will be put? This seems to be cutting out the little guy again.

Posted by: tunaman | September 16, 2008 5:50 PM

Is this clown a satirist or a journalist? Mr. Fisher is either a very low IQ individual, or cynically believes the IQ of his readership to be such. He misunderstands/misrepresents the numbers that go to education and the tracks to such an extreme that one can only come to one or the other conclusion. If it is he that suffers from the low IQ, he may want to remedy that by going back to the community college from whence he graduated in order to re-enroll in 6th grade geometry.

Posted by: mrosen3 | September 16, 2008 6:42 PM

So according to the previous poster, you we have to support a boondogle of a plan that will provide 6 cents of every dollar to education, or else we have a bee inside our bonnet (to use the more civil version)? Well looking at those numbers, I might have to vote no.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 7:21 PM

The numbers only work like this:

one-third of thirteen is 4 and a third
9.5 percent of thirteen is 1.235
13 minus 4 and a third minus 1.235 is about 7.432 percent in Marc's math towards schools and local government.

Put another way, 7.432 divide 13 equals 57 percent of REVENUE GENERATED by slots is returned to schools and local government.

You still have to decide if gambling is smart, if the return is correct, if the payout to gamblers is fair (don't Las Vegas slots return north of 95%?),if the Maryland assembly will cut other funding sources for local schools because of gambling revenue, etc, etc, but I think this is a fairer way to frame the discussion.

Posted by: anonymous | September 17, 2008 12:48 PM

The numbers only work like this:

one-third of thirteen is 4 and a third
9.5 percent of thirteen is 1.235
13 minus 4 and a third minus 1.235 is about 7.432 percent in Marc's math towards schools and local government.

Put another way, 7.432 divide 13 equals 57 percent of REVENUE GENERATED by slots is returned to schools and local government.

You still have to decide if gambling is smart, if the return is correct, if the payout to gamblers is fair (don't Las Vegas slots return north of 95%?),if the Maryland assembly will cut other funding sources for local schools because of gambling revenue, etc, etc, but I think this is a fairer way to frame the discussion.

Posted by: anonymous | September 17, 2008 12:54 PM

Read the actual legislation if idiot Fisher's expert analysis misled you. Greater than 50% of the revenue generated by slots will be going towards MD schools. That is the truth, the rest is political manipulation at its worst by a partisan writer who would clearly prefer to see taxes raised than a slots bill passed with the highest tax rate (with proceeds going to education) in the nation.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 1:23 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company