Voters' Answers: 2. Why Slots Won
2. Is it just party and personality that made the difference for slots in Maryland?
No, it was more than that. Slots won everywhere. Marylanders as a whole voted 59-41 to legalize slots gambling and move toward the construction of five slots palaces around the state, including one in Laurel.
But even liberal Montgomery County, which the stereotype tells us never met a tax it didn't like, voted for slots, though it was close: 52-48 percent. (Pending a likely recount, county voters appeared finally to conclude that enough taxes are enough, voting by 50.09 percent to 49.91 percent for an amendment to the county charter that would . Only 600 votes separate Yes from No with 339,000 votes cast.)
Compare the Montgomery slots vote to the margins of victory throughout the rest of Maryland. Slots won 57 percent of the vote in Howard County and 59 percent in Prince George's, Baltimore city, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel. In southern Maryland, the state's traditional home of slots gambling, the Yes side won by even larger margins, with 63 percent in Calvert and St. Mary's counties and 64 percent in Charles.
Neither the moral arguments against slots nor the fairness question--is it right to balance the state budget on the backs of the primarily lower-middle class residents who spend heavily on slots gambling, rather than tax all residents based on their income?--deterred voters from embracing a plan that promised to alleviate the pressure for more tax increases.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, who seemed almost sheepish about his support of slots as the solution to the state's budget woes, pushed hard for the proposal initially, but then remained almost silent through much of the fall campaign. Last night, he said "We need these dollars, especially in these tough times, to stay in Maryland. People felt even with some ambivalence that it's best to keep these dollars in Maryland."
Voters didn't have much of a problem either with the prospect of creating new gambling addict. Nor did they like the idea that the horse racing and breeding industries ought to be allowed to rise or fall based on the sport's popularity rather than with the help of big state subsidies.
This morning, gambling companies are announcing their intent to build slots casinos. The Maryland Jockey Club, which owns the track in Laurel, the only Washington-area site where the slots legislation calls for a slots palace, today said it intends to apply for a license.
The slots victory may give O'Malley a bit of a boost politically, but it hardly matters. Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, the only Republican who could conceivably mount a credible challenge to O'Malley's reelection, told a college class last week that he doesn't see much interest on the part of Marylanders in choosing someone of his political bent to be governor.
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