Friday, September 7, 2012

The Politics of Poker

With the Presidential election a few short months away, it's hard to avoid campaign ads from both sides of the aisle, most attacking the respective candidates.  If you live in Maryland, you've also been witness to a bevy of "political ads" of a different kind -- ads both for and against "Question 7" -- the state gambling referendum which will make the ballot in November.
I've written about it previously, but in case you missed it, Maryland is attempting to expand gambling within its borders by (1) adding table games, including poker, to existing casinos; and (2) allowing construction of a 7th casino in Prince George's County, just outside DC, which will in all likelihood be owned and operated by MGM Mirage.
Not surprisingly, MGM began a series of television advertisements seeking support for Question 7.  The ads tout a new destination casino.  More importantly, they promise thousands of construction jobs and over 4,000 permanent jobs, as well as increased tax funding for Maryland schools.  It all sounds great.
Well, this week, a series of counter ads made the air waves.  These advertisements attack and refute the claims made by MGM.  With a gloomy voice over, the ads mockingly warn, "thousands of promised jobs!!! We've heard THAT before . . ."     It continues: "Increased tax revenue and money for Maryland Schools?  Question 7 will actually REDUCE the taxes owed by casino operators in the state of Maryland!"  The ad concludes, "vote NO to Question 7!!!"

While at first blush, the attack ad seemingly comes from a concerned citizens group, it turns out this is not the case.  Nope.  It's actually paid for by Penn National Gaming. Yes, the company that owns Charles Town Casino in West Virginia (currently the closest full service casino to DC).  Penn National also owns Hollywood Casino, Perryville, Maryland, which operates as a slot parlor. And, finally, Penn National owns Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County, and was/is trying to win the 7th license themselves to build a casino at the race track -- a proposition that now appears all but dead. Suffice it to say, Penn National has much at stake if a 7th license is granted to MGM.

Penn National's ads spew pure bullshit in attempt to preserve market share.  Lets look at the facts.  First, a casino is not going to build itself.  And, once built, the casino/resort/hotel is not going to run itself.  I have no idea whether 4,000 jobs will be created.  But, common sense says this project will, in fact, certainly create jobs.  It's unquestionable. 

Perhaps more interesting, while the Penn National "response" ad chastises Question 7 for reducing the state casino tax, this reduction was actually added to the bill as a compromise for current casino owners -- INCLUDING PENN NATIONAL -- in exchange for the award of a 7th license.  The State would hand out a 7th license; but, in return, the state tax would be lowered for the existing operators.  In other words, existing operators like Penn National might lose market share, but they'd be permitted to keep a larger percentage of the revenue they were able to maintain.  Yes, Penn National lobbied for a reduction in taxes and is now running adds attacking Question 7 because the bill does exactly what Penn National demanded it do!  Fucken hypocrisy!!!

I hope Penn National gets called out on its shit.  And, I hope Maryland voters do the right thing this fall.  If Question 7 should fail, I'll have yet another reason to avoid Charles Town and to take my vig elsewhere.



  1. I'm shocked a casino owner/chain would act, shall we call it, unscrupulous.

    Shocked, I say.

    Not really.

  2. In Illinois, we are in terrible financial shape due to our state government not funding its part of our pension plans. Yet, the governor and other pols continue to hold up a bill to expand casino gambling in the state, guaranteeing that we sink further and further into debt.

  3. Can't wait if this goes through, but it seems the locations of two of the casinos - right outside of DC & right in Baltimore - will be prime pickings for the poorest people. Although I'm a conservative, I really pity the people who will be hit the most by the casinos moving in; the poor. Whether it's the lotto or casinos, they'll be the most frequent guests to the places where they can least afford it. And now we're making it that much easier for them to continue the vicious cycle of destitution.

    Again, I'm not a liberal, but I do feel sympathetic for this group that will be hit hardest. It's a shame, but we all have free choice in this world and I suppose that my feelings should not stop MD from moving forward with the planned casinos...

  4. P3 -

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your posts.