By 2 to 1, Marylanders say slots have been good rather than bad for the state. And more than six in 10 support allowing Las Vegas-style table games, such as black jack and roulette, at existing Maryland casinos — something that has been embraced by the surrounding states of Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Marylanders’ receptiveness to gambling comes as lawmakers give the most serious consideration to the most wide-ranging changes in Maryland’s slots program since 2008, when voters authorized five casinos — the third of which is expected to open in June in Anne Arundel County.
No idea under consideration is more controversial than bringing slots to Prince George’s, where ministers and other longtime opponents have argued that the machines prey on the poor and increase crime and other social ills.
Legislation being drafted in the Senate would invite bids for a casino to be located in a small swath of western Prince George’s that includes Rosecroft Raceway, the recently reopened horse-racing track, and National Harbor, the shopping and dining destination on the Potomac.
Under Maryland’s slots program, the state and host counties keep a share of the proceeds, and boosters of a Prince George’s site argue it would be best positioned to cash in on gamblers from the District and Virginia, where casino-style gaming remains illegal.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has not taken a firm public position on the idea but has asked state lawmakers from the jurisdiction to “keep an open mind,” given fiscal challenges facing the the state and county.
Many of Baker’s constituents seem to be doing just that, the Post poll suggests.
“I’d rather see people play here than go to West Virginia or wherever,” said Zoran Bucalo, 53, an information technology specialist who lives in Bowie.
Bucalo said that he sees gambling proceeds as an alternative to tax revenue and that while he doesn’t play slots, others should be free to do so. “It’s a personal choice,” he said.
Steven Wyrill of Upper Marlboro said he thinks slots opponents overstate the impact casinos have on crime. “If people are going to steal from you, they can do that outside a shopping mall,” said Wyrill, 43, who is in the home repair business.
Other county residents say they remain convinced that casinos are not the kind of economic development that Prince George’s needs now.
“We don’t need to bring in any more gambling,” said James Moore, 58, who lives in Bowie and is a law enforcement official with the Department of Homeland Security. “Let’s bring in stuff that really builds the county up, not that gives people false hopes.”