Only blue-haired ladies with paper cups full of quarters can save the Sport of Kings. That’s what Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and his Secretary of Labor say, anyway.
A report claiming that slot machines will preserve his state’s horse racing industry was just issued by Thomas E. Perez, Maryland’s Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, but its objectivity has been questioned by the Washington Post, Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot, and the mayor and business leaders of Ocean City.
Reports on the economic value of Maryland’s horse racing industry are muddled because they mix racing and associated endeavors with recreational horse riding businesses and, as observed in a letter to the Post, the state’s tracks are owned by a large Canadian corporation and the wealthy de Francis family.
Saving Maryland horse racing through slots is a transparent pretext to find a new source of government revenue that can’t be called a tax. Maryland’s historical experience of slot machines and the associated political corruption have faded to nostalgia, and moral questions and the problems of compulsive gamblers can be ignored if, as with the state-run lottery, government uses gambling proceeds for schools and childcare. In today’s America, anything is okay as long as we do it for the good of the children.
Free State slots proponents also claim that racetracks in neighboring Delaware and West Virginia lure Maryland visitors to their slots palaces. It’s a good thing Maryland doesn’t border Nevada, where prostitution is legal.