Cumberland Times-News

December 26, 2012

Big price tag

$500M license fee proposed for new casino

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— Those who thought the arguing about Maryland’s casinos would end after the state’s voters passed Question 7 — the gambling expansion referendum — were wrong.

What the referendum actually will bring is still anyone’s guess.

As former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once said of the so-called Obamacare healthcare reform act, we pretty much had to pass Question 7 to see what was in it.

There were questions as to how many new jobs the casino expansion would bring to Maryland. Maryland Live!, the state’s largest casino, said it would add 1,200 more people to its existing staff of 1,500.

How all of this will affect operations at Rocky Gap’s planned casino is also up in the air.

There have been requests to extend the hours during which alcohol may be served there. Lakes Entertainment, which holds the slots license at Rocky Gap, has scaled back its original plans.

Our local legislators are also concerned about the loss of conference space at the facility. Some of our local organizations that traditionally have held holiday events at Rocky Gap had to find new locations this year after being told the resort could not accommodate them.

Now, Maryland think tanks are proposing that the state charge the new National Harbor Casino a $500 million license fee instead of the current $18 million.

The casino’s expected revenue of $148 million a year was cited, as was the $50 million spent by casino owner MGM Resorts International in advertising designed to urge voters to support the casino referendum.

That’s half a billion dollars. All things considered, it’s not a bad idea. If nothing else, the money would go a long way to easing Maryland’s budget problems.

The only problem with that idea is that Maryland’s legislators are not much different from those in Washington or most other state capitals.

The more money we give them, the more ways they will find to spend it.