Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is Slots Job Fair Pressure, or Desperation?

By Rob Annicelli.

Simon Corporation, Cordish Cos., and Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold are now engaging in a full scale public relations blitz to try and rescue their collective proposal to place a slots casino in a shopping center. With less than three weeks to go until what would appear to be the final hearing on zoning legislation which would permit a slots parlor in the county, these three amigos are making claims such as placing slots at Arundel Mills was the will of the voter during the 2008 slots referendum. But even worse, they are now looking to recruit prospective job seekers to come out to the Arundel Mills food court on Thursday, November 19th for a job fair they will host despite not have a slots license nor the county zoning approval in place.

Some of the more biased Baltimore and Annapolis based news outlets are claiming that this move will put pressure on the council to approve slots. I believe this is a cruel move that will attempt to use those down on their luck in the job market as pawns in a political argument over whether a self proclaimed ‘family friendly’ shopping mall is the best location for a giant slots parlor. This is among one of the most desperate and divisive political ploys attempted in recent memory, and I am sure it will backfire. Remember, Arundel Mills sits two miles away from Ft Meade which has already started to see an influx in BRAC jobs and will host an additional 22,000 jobs. By comparison, there are 18,000 unemployed persons in Anne Arundel County . While full employment should be our goal, low paying gambling jobs should not be used to replace higher paying technology careers.

If you voted against slots like I did you probably do not want to see them anywhere. But if you are among the 60% of Maryland voters who approved slots you probably never imagined that an outlet mall with a brand new Lego store would also one day be home to a casino with twice the number of slots machines as the MGM Grand in Las Vegas . (And, oh by the way, Zed Smith of the Cordish Cos. stated on November 10th before the Greater Severna Park Council that those shoppers at the Arundel Mills Lego store are among their target demographic for slots!) States around Maryland are in the process of expanding gambling types and sites in a race to the bottom, and if the Arundel Mills effort passes as a result of a well financed effort by multi-billion dollar companies, what is going to be there to stop the local shopping center near you from one day hosting slots? Once the precedent is set there will be no going back. Giving local zoning control over slots was intended to prevent this from happening, or so we thought.

On December 7th at 7 p.m. we will once again debate the merits of allowing a slots parlor at Arundel Mills. No matter what Don Fry and the State Video Lottery Location Commissioners say about the revenue potential for such a casino, or if they think it is in the State’s ‘interest,’ the final word on permitting gambling at a family friendly shopping plaza will rest with the Anne Arundel County Council – a body elected by the voters of Anne Arundel County. Slots in shopping centers near residental developmets are not in the interest of the residents and voters of Anne Arundel County, and the zoning legislation should fail.

Rob Annicelli
Stop Slots at Arundel Mills