Slots or No Slots, That is the Question… Again

Appearing in Annapolis Capital Punishment, September 23, 2010

Guest Editorial by Loyal Reader Alex Pline (ACP says thanks!):

The “slots” question is probably the most contentious issue we’ve had on the ballot since, well, the lasts “slots” question. Just like last time, every interest group is going full tilt. As such, it’s pretty difficult to make sense of the issue and decide how to answer the ballot question. Personally, I’m struggling with it. However, since there is so much special interest swirling around this, before I go any further, here’s my disclosure statement:

I am a regular taxpaying citizen of Anne Arundel County. I have no skin in the slots game other than the fact that I have two kids in the Anne Arundel County Public Schools. The closest I get to the county establishment is that my wife is president of the Bates Middle School PTA and I run their blog. I’m not a gambler, but I have no moral objection to it. I’ve just never enjoyed gambling, even socially – ask anyone in my neighborhood, I talk and drink more than play at the boys poker games – and I find the whole casino environment frankly, boring.

So stick with me while I work through how to vote on the ballot question to allow the zoning for slots to take effect. Let’s forget all the stuff we hear in the media and look at some facts. Marylanders voted in 2008 to allow slots. I was not one of them, but the voters spoke, and that is our form of government:

Statewide: For 59% Against 41%
AA County: For 59% Against: 41%
Precincts around Arundel Mills Mall (roughly): For 60% Against 40%

This is what the voters wanted and as a result there WILL be slots in Maryland – that is, the genie is out of the bottle. Even though I hate everything about gambling, why not allow Anne Arundel County bill 82-09 to become law by voting “For Question A” to approve Bill 82-09 on this November’s ballot? The bill says:

“Bill No.82-09 is a zoning bill and was enacted for the purpose of allowing a Video Lottery Facility as a conditional use in a W-1 Industrial Park zoning district or at a Regional Commercial Complex.”

Since there will be slots in Maryland, people are going to spend their money on this stuff in the relative proximity of Anne Arundel County whether we allow it in Anne Arundel County or not, i.e. they don’t have to drive to PA or DE or NJ to waste their money, they can do it within an hour drive. So if they are inclined to spend that way, they will, just not in Anne Arundel County.

So the problem I’m having is this: the arguments that were used for the 2008 referendum to allow/not allow slots in MD are really red herrings and not valid for allowing the zoning bill in Anne Arundel County to take effect, because as I said, the genie is out of the bottle:

1. If local businesses are going to be hurt, they are going to be hurt even if there are no slots in Anne Arundel County because the proximity of other non-Anne Arundel County sites is close enough that people will go there if they want to gamble; its just too close.

2. We all know the “extra funds for education” arguments are bogus. It’s just a shell game, as they will divert “regular” education funds in the same amount as those that come from slots – a zero sum game for education – but the fact remains that slots WILL be a net revenue producer for the county to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Who knows what the actual will be, but it won’t be negative.

3. Take a look at what the zoning bill actually stipulates (below): things that address people’s concerns of crime, crowding and traffic such as traffic and parking planning, lighting, security measures and noise level limits.

4. People around the Mall don’t want slots is, or was, not true: If you look at the 2008 votes around Arundel Mills Mall, they were largely in favor of slots. You lie in the bed you make.

While I personally hate everything about gambling and it galls me to vote in the affirmative on anything to do with gambling, given that the genie is out of the bottle in Maryland and the County needs money for EVERYTHING (not just education), why not let the suckas who want to voluntarily pay extra taxes by gambling do it?

Sounds like making lemonade from lemons to me. Mmmmmm…..

————————–
2008 Election Sources:
http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/42electg/html/2008/2008const.html
http://www.aacounty.org/Elections/results/2008%20Primary%20Results%20by%20Polling%20Place/08%20Results%20FINAL/2008%20Presidential%20General%20Election%20SOVC%20Report.pdf

Ballot Question A:

Video Lottery Facilities are not permitted anywhere in Anne Arundel County under current zoning law. Bill No.82-09 is a zoning bill and was enacted for the purpose of allowing a Video Lottery Facility as a conditional use in a W-i Industrial Park zoning district or at a Regional Commercial Complex. Vote “For Bill 82-09” if you want Bill 82-09 to take effect. Vote “Against Bill 82-09” if you do not want bill 82-09 to take effect.

http://www.aacounty.org/Elections/Early%2520Voting%2FPDF%2520of%2520Torre%2520Ballot%2520Questions.pdf

Zoning Bill 82-09:

http://www.aacounty.org/CountyCouncil/Resources/2009/82-09.pdf

8-10-136. Video lottery facilities.

(B) Requirements. A VIDEO LOTTERY FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH ALL OF THE FOLLOWING REQUIREMENTS.
(1) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH THE LOCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS IMPOSED BY ARTICLE XIX, § 1(C)(3)(I) OF THE CONSTITUTION OF MARYLAND.
(2) THE FACILITY SHALL BE LOCATED ON A LOT OF AT LEAST 50 ACRES IN A W1 INDUSTRIAL PARK DISTRICT OR A REGIONAL COMMERCIAL COMPLEX AND SHALL BE ACCESSIBLE TO AN ARTERIAL OR HIGHER CLASSIFICATION ROAD.
(3) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH ALL APPLICABLE BULK REGULATIONS FOR THE ZONING DISTRICT IN WHICH THE FACILITY IS LOCATED.
(4) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH A TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT PLAN THAT IS APPROVED BY THE OFFICE OF PLANNING AND ZONING.
(5) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH A TRAFFIC STUDY THAT ASSESSES THE IMPACTS OF NEW TRAFFIC GENERATED BY THE PROPOSED USE ON MAJOR ROADS AND INTERSECTIONS AS REQUIRED BY ARTICLE 17 AND THAT IS APPROVED BY THE OFFICE OF PLANNING AND ZONING.
(6) THE FACILITY SHALL CONFORM TO AN APPROVED SITE DEVELOPMENT PLAN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF ARTICLE 17.
(7) THE FACILITY SHALL CONFORM TO APPROVED PLANS FOR OFF-STREET PARKING THAT SHOW ALL DESIGNATED PARKING AREAS, INCLUDING HANDICAPPED SPACES, BUS PARKING, LOADING, AND DELIVERY AREAS.
(8) THE FACILITY SHALL INCLUDE LIGHTING THAT ILLUMINATES ALL PARKING AREAS AND WALKWAYS AND IS FOCUSED SO AS TO PREVENT GLARE UPON SURROUNDING AREAS.
(9) THE FACILITY SHALL PROVIDE 24-HOUR SECURITY FOR THE FACILITY AND ADJACENT PARKING AREAS, SEPARATE FROM SECURITY PROVIDED BY OTHER COMMERCIAL OR INDUSTRIAL ESTABLISHMENTS IN THE VICINITY OF THE FACILITY.
(10) THE FACILITY SHALL COMPLY WITH A WRITTEN PLAN APPROVED BY THE PLANNING AND ZONING OFFICER TO CONTROL LOITERING AND CONSPICUOUSLY POST “NO LOITERING” SIGNS IN ALL PARKING AREAS.
(11) THE FACILITY, INCLUDING ADJACENT PARKING AREAS, SHALL BE CLEARED OF LITTER AND REFUSE DAILY.
(12) THE FACILITY SHALL ENSURE THAT NOISE FROM THE FACILITY DOES NOT EXCEED A DAYTIME LEVEL OF 67 DBA OR A NIGHTTIME LEVEL OF 62 DBA AT THE LOT LINES.
(13) THE FACILITY SHALL BE LICENSED BY THE STATE AND SUBJECT TO STATE REGULATION AND ENFORCEMENT.

(C) Alcoholic beverages. A VIDEO LOTTERY FACILITY MAY OPERATE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE USES ACCESSORY TO OTHER USES IN THE W1 INDUSTRIAL PARK DISTRICT AND IN A REGIONAL COMMERCIAL COMPLEX SUBJECT TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF § 18- 10-103 AND STATE LAW AND REGULATION.

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