Casino Critics’ Hypocrisy Laid Bare in Baltimore Sun Story

Elected officials – not Maryland casinos – determine how gaming tax revenue is spent

Press Release | 01.23.2017

Washington, DC – American Gaming Association (AGA) Vice President of Public Affairs Erik Balsbaugh released the following statement in response to a Baltimore Sun story on how Maryland casinos are delivering on their promises to generate more than a billion dollars in tax revenue – yet, in a stunning display of hypocrisy – critics blame casinos for a lack of education funding:

“Even as casinos in Maryland have gone above and beyond to serve as strong community partners and pay far more than their share in taxes, some casino critics cannot overcome their opposition to gaming,” said Erik Balsbaugh, American Gaming Association vice president of public affairs. “However, it’s time to look at the facts and recognize the role gaming is playing in providing careers for thousands of workers, supporting local small businesses and yes, supporting public education through unmatched tax revenue, just as the industry promised it would. We’re pleased to play this important role, but how elected officials choose to spend the revenue is out of our hands.”

The Sun reported that “in the seven years since the first of Maryland's six casinos opened, they have pumped $1.7 billion into the state's Education Trust Fund — the financial windfall that advocates for gambling promised would go to the state's public schools.”

But some casino critics – including lawmakers who are responsible for steering tax revenue to fund government services – offered incredible reactions to the news that “casino funds have not gone to bolster school budgets more than what the state was already required to spend,” even though the law “has allowed the governor and lawmakers to take money that once went to schools and redirect it to pay salaries, fund roadwork and support other government programs and services,” reported the Sun.

Fact Checking the Mind-Boggling Quotes from the Baltimore Sun Story:

"While gambling was sold as a way to bring in more money for education, it really hasn't been putting more money in schools," said Benjamin Orr, director of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy.

[Del. Curt] Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the city's House delegation, listened to the lobbyists and lawmakers who said gambling would benefit schools. He was always skeptical. "I voted against the casinos because I feared all the promises they made would not be kept," he said. "The money is going into the Education Trust Fund, but it's being siphoned off on the other end. Even back in 2009, we knew they were going to do the Okey-Doke on us. We knew how the game was played. They promise a lot, they get the bill passed, and they never deliver on the promises."

FACT CHECK: Casinos are not responsible for where gaming tax revenue ends up after the government collects it.

Former Del. Heather Mizeur, a Democrat who opposed casino gambling when she was in the General Assembly, said it's now "up to the legislature to try to fix the governor's poor budget decisions. Governor Hogan's budget does exactly what I had feared most when I was working against the casino ballot initiative — it does a bait-and-switch on the public, breaking a promise that was made by the initiative's supporters," Mizeur said.

FACT CHECK: Casinos have more than upheld their end of the bargain.

State Comptroller Peter Franchot opposed casino gambling in Maryland. "People ask me often around the state, 'What happened to the casino money?'" he said. "And I don't have a good answer for them. It just disappears into the general fund." He remembers proponents speaking about the benefits of "slots for tots.” “It was a fiscal fairy tale from the start," he said.

FACT CHECK: Again, casinos have more than upheld their end of the bargain. Casino money is supporting education, infrastructure, small business grants and many other programs throughout the state of Maryland.

Bebe Verdery, director of the Education Reform Project of the ACLU of Maryland, said casino revenue should be doing more for education in the state. "Maryland school funding falls over $1 billion short of what the education formula says students need," she said. "Casino operators are receiving higher-than-expected, record profits. "In this time of fiscal distress for Baltimore and other schools, why can't part of the solution be casinos sharing more of their excess profits?"

FACT CHECK: Casinos in Maryland pay among the highest tax rates of casinos in any state – up to 66% -- and contribute more than their fair share to Maryland’s tax coffers. The industry is proud to be a strong community partner.

About AGA: The American Gaming Association is the premier national trade group representing the $240 billion U.S. casino industry, which supports 1.7 million jobs in 40 states. AGA members include commercial and tribal casino operators, suppliers and other entities affiliated with the gaming industry. It is the mission of the AGA to be the single most effective champion of the industry, relentlessly protecting against harmful and often misinformed public policies, and paving a path for growth, innovation and reinvestment.

AmerGamingAssn @AmerGamingAssn

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