Monday, August 31, 2009

False Choice on Slots

By Rob Annicelli.

On August 28th County Executive John R. Leopold issued a press release announcing a Countywide hiring freeze. He also used this press release to try and tie the current County’s fiscal woes to the need to pass a slots zoning bill for Arundel Mills.

County Executive Leopold is incorrect in his assertion that slots revenue will significantly alleviate this County’s fiscal woes being experienced under his leadership as County Executive. If the proposed Arundel Mills Casino were to generate the full $30 million in annual local impact grants that has been promised, these funds would represent 0.15% of the total $2 billion Anne Arundel County budget. Further, Section 9–1A–31 of Senate Bill 3, which governs how any slots revenue is to be spent, limits the expenditure of funds to the “COMMUNITIES IN IMMEDIATE PROXIMITY TO THE VIDEO LOTTERY FACILITIES.” 12,000 plus additional daily visitors to the county in an already densely developed residential area will have a substantial cost by requiring additional public services from the county, including police, fire, and traffic enhancements. To date those cost figures have not been discussed publicly by the supporters of slots at Arundel Mills, including Leopold.

Local Impact Grants are not a panacea to the County’s financial woes. But framing the public debate as having slots at Arundel Mills or no slots at all is a false choice. Adding community protections like a 1/4 mile buffer between residential areas and a slots casino, which was given to the residents of Baltimore City, would not drive down any potential revenue which might be generated for the County. That is unless you believe you absolutely must have a Casino next to the Mall's food court, Gymboree Outlet, and The Children’s Place to maximize revenue.

Executive Leopold, why won't you provide at least the same real protections to residents of Anne Arundel County as provided to the residents of Baltimore City? You might just pass a slots zoning bill if you did.

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Rob Annicelli
President, Stop Slots at Arundel Mills
Hanover, MD