Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Is Slots Gamble Paying Off?

WaPo has an interesting story about efforts by state leaders to bring slot machines to Maryland.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller says we all might have to start preparing for the reality that slots revenue will not meet expectations in coming years, when the program was expected to yield more than $600 million a year for education programs.

The plan envisioned slots venues at five sites in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties and Baltimore. On Monday, the commission handling bids announced that it had received six bids for 10,550 machines. Commission Chairman Donald Fry lowered that figure to 6,550 yesterday and said the commission will discuss the status of two bidders next week.

One of those facing disqualification is the Maryland Jockey Club, which has proposed putting slots at its Laurel Park racetrack in Anne Arundel. If disqualified, that would leave one other bid for the Anne Arundel site: a proposal by Baltimore-based Cordish to put 4,750 machines at Arundel Mills Mall, which is stirring controversy.

And there's this little curious fact in the story about the six "competitive" bidders:

If the two bidders are disqualified, the state will be left with four applicants, with one each for four of the five authorized sites.

State leaders, including Gov. O'Malley are counseling patience, the story says. And some are thinking about ways to encourage more participation.

Some lawmakers have raised the possibility of letting operators keep a greater percentage of earnings to make the sites more attractive. The law allows operators to keep 33 percent, one of the lowest shares in the country.

Is this what voters expected when they approved the slots referendum?

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