Backing for Question 7, with facts askew

Daily Record Business Writer//October 16, 2012

Backing for Question 7, with facts askew

By Alexander Pyles

//Daily Record Business Writer

//October 16, 2012

A pair of former Maryland Republican leaders threw their political weight behind Question 7 Tuesday, endorsing a plan that could put a casino at National Harbor and legalize table games at state casinos if voters approve on Nov. 6.

Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and former state Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott got some facts and figures wrong in a letter supporting Question 7.

But former Lt. Gov. and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and former Maryland State Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott, in a co-signed letter to registered Republicans in Maryland, had their facts and figures a tad askew, starting with the second paragraph.

The letter begins by saying that West Virginia casino interests are trying to influence a decision in Maryland, a reference to Pennsylvania-based Penn National Gaming Inc., which operates Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, W.Va.

“They hire fancy marketing companies to try and fool us,” the letter says, “spending almost $40 million so far to defeat Question 7.”

Penn National, which believes a casino at National Harbor would take a bite of Hollywood’s profits, spent $38 million to oppose a limited casino program in Ohio in 2008. But so far, the company has spent $25.1 million on advertising opposing the referendum in Maryland, according to state campaign finance records.

After telling voters it’s time to get Penn National to “butt out,” Steele and Scott explain why the gambling expansion would be beneficial, especially to Republican-heavy areas such as Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

In those areas, the letter says, hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars would be generated via three casinos: Hollywood Casino Perryville — owned by Penn National, incidentally — The Casino at Ocean Downs in Berlin and a future facility at Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort.

But those casinos have already been approved, and adding table games such as poker to their gambling floors — the three smallest in the state — would add far fewer than “hundreds” of jobs to those facilities, according to owners.

The letter is also deceptive when explaining exactly what Question 7 entails.

“The law creating Question 7 gave [veteran organizations] the right to operate slot machines, thereby providing a perpetual funding source for our veterans,” the letter said. “We are incredibly proud to say that Republican legislators are directly responsible for getting many of these extra benefits into Question 7.”

Part of that is true. But the machines at veterans’ halls — which are actually electronic bingo machines, not slots — have been legal since Oct. 1, and do not require approval of Maryland voters.



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