New slots ad: Keep Maryland money in Maryland
Keeping with its economic argument for expanded gambling, the pro-slots ballot committee For Maryland For Our Future released a new ad today arguing that voters should approve November's gambling referendum to keep Maryland money in Maryland.
This has long been a mainstay of the pro-slots argument, and a point designed to appeal to people who might not be all that keen on playing slots themselves. Essentially, it says that Marylanders are playing slots anyway, so why not get the benefit of it here?
The ad pegs the amount Marylanders now spend on slots out of state at $400 million, but that figure isn't set in stone. The number comes from a 2007 report from Labor, Licensing and Regulation Secretary Tom Perez and is calculated based on a five-year-old study from Delaware about the percentage of people from other states who play slots there and a guesstimate from the owner of Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia. Based on that, Perez estimates that Marylanders spend $350 million to $400 million a year on slots in those states.
Setting aside the question of whether those numbers are accurate, they point to an interesting thing about slots math. If all we were contemplating was keeping Maryland revenue in Maryland, the $400 million the state's residents now spend on slots in neighboring states would translate into just $268 million for the treasury, a far cry from the $600 million-plus the state is expecting.
To get to $600 million for the state, slots parlors in Maryland would have to gross about $896 million a year, or more than double what Perez estimates Marylanders are now plunking into the machines in West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. Granted, some of the Maryland revenue would be expected to come from out-of-staters, but how much, given that Maryland is virtually surrounded by states that allow gambling? Unless 70 percent of Maryland's slots take comes from out of state (probably not a realistic guess), the slots plan is predicated on the notion that Marylanders would gamble more than they do now if slots are allowed here.