GBC’s Fry: Slots and Maryland’s fiscal challenges

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

The issue of slots gaming in Maryland elicits passion and emotion for many.

It’s been no different among the business leaders of the Greater Baltimore Committee who, for the last 10 years have thoroughly studied and debated the gaming issue. This year, the GBC board heard passionate and reasoned arguments from both slots proponents, including Maryland’s horse industry, and slots opponents such as Marylanders United to Stop Slots.

After weighing the pros and cons, we’ve concluded that approval of Maryland’s slots proposal on November 4 makes sense on several levels.

First, it’s an effective way to stop the hemorrhaging of discretionary spending and revenue that is currently going into the coffers of neighboring states and it would provide needed revenues to Maryland.

Among other things, it also provides for Baltimore city to use slots proceeds to reduce property taxes, something city residents sorely need.

But Maryland business owners have a compelling reason to support the slots proposal — it avoids the seemingly inevitable nature of the fiscal fallout that will occur if it doesn’t pass.

Failure of the slots proposal would put strong fiscal pressure on the governor and lawmakers seeking to close an estimated $1.1 billion deficit. History shows that they would not just cut budgets. They would seek additional revenue and business is a likely target.

Imposing more taxes on business would simply convert the state’s structural deficit into added structural overhead for the business sector, making the state a less competitive place to live and work. This slots proposal is a more sensible and attractive alternative to traditional taxes.

The slots legislation captures discretionary spending that now goes elsewhere, restores competitive balance to Maryland’s horse industry, and contributes revenue to budgetary shortfalls without increasing personal or business taxes.

For some, slots may not be the perfect solution, but it does address legitimate public policy concerns and could play a vital role in keeping Maryland on an even fiscal keel.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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