The Maryland Live! Casino at Arundel Mills Mall is set to open next week. At 10 p.m. — on June 6th — Maryland Live (plus that terrible little exclamation point at the end) will become Maryland’s third operating casino, along with Ocean Downs in Worcester and Hollywood Casino in Cecil County.
Maryland Live! is the most recent of several new casinos, but not for long — two more, one in Baltimore City and one in Alleghany — have already been approved and are scheduled to open in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
(One of Tuesday’s Links will take you to yet another announcement for a Maryland Casino.)
Maybe it’s just the fact that I went on a lot of movie dates at Arundel Mills Mall in eighth grade (I even bought my first band tee from the mall’s Hot-Topic), but the news — not to mention the proximity of this new casino — is starting to make me think a lot about what the gambling industry can mean to a community.
Economically, casinos seem to make sense; they return 95 percent of the money they get back to winning players, they create jobs in the community, and can generate millions of dollars in much needed tax revenue. And while a lot of people talk about gambling as a “poor tax,” you’d be hard-pressed to find statistical evidence showing that it lowers real-estate values or causally (though possibly reflectively) affects crime and poverty rates.
That’s what’s called looking good on paper, and I understand the political pressure to encourage that; it’s what passes budgets and keeps people in office. But I’ve been to casinos before, and I know that off-paper they can tend to smell bad, and they rarely seem to attract those slinky 20-somethings you see advertised on the billboards. More often than not, slot machines are occupied by less educated, poorer patrons who could be using that money to buy a new car or a few more changes of clothes (or, for you cynics out there, something more taxable than income, like liquor or tobacco). And in Maryland, the excess money isn’t going into Indian Reservations; it just ends up being more padding for corporate pockets.
Where do you land on the issue, Baltimore?