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Friday, October 31, 2008

Will Maryland Government Enter the Gambling Industry?

My October 31 Examiner column on the proposal to establish video gambling in Maryland:

Some characterize this initiative as “legalizing video lotteries,” as if the government were proposing to simply lift its existing ban. But it is instead a big-government program. Video lotteries in Maryland won’t be private businesses that pay taxes—they will be effectively a government program administered in part by private companies.

The House Ways and Means committee in Annapolis explained the video lottery industry’s status in language that could have come out of the Soviet Union or Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan: “If the State decides to legalize an activity currently prohibited, the revenues from this activity belong to the State. It is then the decision of the State as to how to appropriately allocate the revenues.”

The state’s strict control over the industry points to other potential unsavory business-government cooperation. The amendment would limit the number of terminals, meaning the current gaming giants would get their licenses and be confident that no competitors could cut into their racket. Nice work if you can get it.

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