Advertisements arguing for and against Question 7 have flooded our televisions and radios in recent weeks. Arguments for the facility echo the ones I have made: that it will create jobs, generate revenue, and establish a destination with world class amenities that serves both residents and tourists.
Arguments against Question 7 have not disputed that the facility will create jobs or revenue. That’s because it’s a fact. The independent and nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services clearly articulated in its fiscal note on expanding gaming that the proposal will increase revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars, and studies on the construction and operation of the proposed facility have clearly outlined the jobs it will create. So instead of disputing these facts, the anti-Question 7 advertisements argue over exactly how much revenue will be generated and where it will go.
For many reasons, I believe those arguments to be false, and I was encouraged to see this article in The Gazette articulate the many ways that the statements in those ads are built “on a long-standing public myth that has no basis in fact.”
What is most disturbing about this campaign, however, is that it is funded and fueled not by Marylanders but by competing casinos in other states.
Recently, The Baltimore Sun published this article on how West Virginia Lottery Director John Musgrave has publically expressed the hope that Question 7 fails. His reason was not his concern for the welfare of our state and our County: it was that increased competition from our facility would hurt the casinos in his state. He said, “We’re hoping that the folks over there will vote down that issue because it will have an impact on our facility at Charles Town.”
It is the operators of that casino who have been behind the campaign to stop Question 7 here in Maryland.
The “staggering hypocrisy” of casino owners funding an anti-casino referendum was recently highlighted by Matt Yglesias in this article in Slate. But the ads are more than hypocritical: they actually disprove themselves. The millions of dollars pouring into the campaign against Question 7 prove why we should vote for it.
As Yglesias puts it, “Understanding the motives of the anti-casino forces is about all you need to understand why the case for Question 7 is so compelling. The West Virginia casino doesn’t like the idea because they think it will shift casino activity out of West Virginia and into Maryland. And that’s exactly why Maryland should do it.”
The opposition to Question 7 is not about what’s best for Maryland: it’s about what’s best for others. That is why it is so important to see what Marylanders are saying about Question 7. The opinions of our citizens should matter more than the voices of competing interests in West Virginia.
The 9,000 professional employees and teachers that make up the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association (PGCEA) fight every day to build a better future for our county through the education of our children. The PGCEA endorsed Question 7, saying, “We believe this to be a strictly local issue and one that is in the best interests of the students we serve and the members that we represent. We cannot remain undecided on the sidelines on an issue that directly impacts our community.”
Our public safety officials dedicate their lives to keeping our neighborhoods safe, which is why I was proud to see the Prince George's County Fire Fighters & Paramedics Association along with the Fraternal Order of Police publically support Question 7. These are the voices of our community, of our County, of our neighbors. These are the voices that should determine how Maryland votes on Question 7.
Recently, The Washington Post endorsed Question 7. The editorial posed this question, "Having already approved five casinos in a 2008 referendum, why not agree to a modest expansion that would generate tens of millions more in annual tax revenue for the state, keep gambling proceeds from leaching into neighboring states such as West Virginia and create several thousand new jobs in the bargain? Common sense now argues in favor of a vote FOR the proposed expansion."
Rushern L. Baker, III
County Executive, Prince George's County