Maryland does not have enough money in the budget to pay for the publicly funded programs they have built into the system over the last decade. Politicians are unwilling to cut programs and they don’t want to raise taxes lest they incur the ire of voting residents.
What is the solution to this apparent paradox? Well, for many years, Md. politicians have pushed legalizing and taxing slot machines as a way to bridge the gap. One of the newest rhetorical weapons they’ve paraded around to persuade opponents is by claiming that tax money from slots will be used to help the failing horse racing industry.
As Mark Fisher pointed out in his May 7th Washington Post article “A Matter of Money, Not Md.” the residents of the state don’t seem to be fooled by the flowery talk used to justify legalizing slots, which essentially says slots are a necessary evil to save the greater good–horse racing. This begs the question: why is betting on horse races romantic and worthy of protection while gambling at slot machines is seen as a sleazy stepping stone to crime and addiction?
Fisher’s article rightly paints this desire to “save” the horse racing industry as completely bogus on all accounts: the government should not appropriate money from one industry or its citizens in order to save another industry. However, their is no reason that slots shouldn’t be legalized and allowed in malls or any other private location where operates can place their machines.
What gives the government the right to tell adults that gambling on horses is fine but slots are off limits?
Malls, cathedrals to wasteful spending, have ATM machines providing easy access to cash and plenty of opportunity to spend it on useful items as well as opportunity to spend it in ways some might find wasteful. Teens can buy $100 pairs of jeans, candy, drop unlimited amounts of quarters into arcade games. Who is to say that spending $10 on a movie ticket is any less of a gamble than putting a quarter in a slot machine? While the government shouldn’t be in the business of rescuing businesses consumers have no interest in, it also shouldn’t stand in the way of goods and services that consumers do want–regardless of how much tax money it could garner.