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Advertise on the Tentacle

August 17, 2012

Aces High!

Roy Meachum

Any fascination I had for gambling was squelched the summer’s weeks spent as a “mark-up boy” in a French Quarter “bookie joint,” as I wrote earlier. Bookmaker Lloyd Baumer carefully detailed the odds against bettors to my 15-year-old mind.


Early Wednesday morning the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation permitting table games, including poker, throughout the state. Prince George’s County will get a new casino, close to Washington’s millions of visitors and residents.


“To me, it’s all about making room for another pig at the gambling trough” – Anne Arundel Republican Del. Herb McMillan was quoted by the Associated Press. “The problem is that while the casino pigs are getting fat, there’s barely a crumb left to benefit the people when they’re done.”


It sounds like a strictly partisan complaint, and the Frederick House GOP delegation unanimously voted against the legislation; the county’s sole Democrat legislator Galen Clagett in favor. Sounds like real political hypocrisy to my Louisiana-born ears. The last Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, pushed to expand gambling only to be frustrated at the hands of the other party’s control of the General Assembly.


On the other hand, the county’s two senators, Democrat Ron Young and GOP’s David Brinkley, triumphed when the House restored veterans’ clubs to operate five instant pull-tab machines each. Some of this is subject to referendum in November. If Prince George’s voters reject the new casino, the rest of the state’s agreement with the General Assembly would permit the measure to go into effect throughout Maryland.


Supporters argued that $199 million will be added to the education fund in 2017. Opponents complained that the casinos would profit more. “A key part of the bill lowers the state’s 67-percent tax rate for the state’s casinos,” the AP reported, “partly to offset added competition from the new casino in Prince George’s County and also to divest the state from purchasing expensive slot machines.”


In any event, it’s a win-win situation for Maryland taxpayers. In their budget-cutting surge, Republicans should support it. Instead, as demonstrated, most GOP members bridled at the bill, despite their last governor’s plea for revenue relief – which makes this November’s national election appear slightly ludicrous, as I wrote in Tuesday’s column: “Paul Ryan’s Selection.”


A GOP friend rejected my referral to the Constitution preamble’s “general welfare.” But Republicans blame the current Democratic president for today’s Great Recession, while depicting unemployed and underemployed as pariahs, a drag on the nation’s finances. They can’t have it both ways. This is exactly what the Founding Fathers were concerned about. The “new poor” are that way because of the “new economy,” which they were helpless to influence.


Cutting welfare agencies and governmental contributions to non-profits are unproductive because of the Constitution’s “general welfare” clause. As I said Tuesday, continuing the acts will bring on the death of this democracy as we know it.


In early August, surveys showed that Barack Obama gained seven points, demonstrating strongly that acts are increasingly unpopular with voters. With registered 1,937,041 Democrats and only 913,944 Republicans, the statewide referendum faces little difficulty. Those considered Independents have polled strongly against the GOP tactics.


Opposition to the new Maryland gambling fits snugly into that losing political pattern.


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