"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.)
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