The MoBseen: Life’s observations as seen through the eyes of Mark.
We, the voters of the Free State, will have the chance to vote on slots coming to Maryland.
Current polling by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies and the Washington Post Polling suggest that Maryland residents are in favor of Maryland slots and those favoring slots continue to outnumber those opposing slots. The question remains of course, where to put the parlors and who will be the beneficiary of the millions generated by this new gambling.
I should point out to those opposed to Maryland slots that we already have gambling in Maryland and on a very broad scale; We have The Lottery, Lotto, The Daily Pick 3, The Daily Pick 4, (twice a day!) Bonus Match 5, Mega Millions, Multi Match, Racetrax, Maryland Hold’em, Keno, Scratch-Offs, and of course horse racing. We also have Off Track Betting (OTB) and XpressBet.
The fact is, we have no shortage of vehicles to separate money from man and woman here in the Free State! These, of course, are all state-ordained gambling games. This in addition to all of the illegal numbers that are run everyday and the illegal slot machines in bars throughout the state, bingo nights at churches, VFWs and fire halls (these licensed by the State) and of course the office pools during March Madness.
The politicians, led by the both Governors Ehrlich and O’Malley, have and are supporting slots. This in itself is not what puzzles me, it’s the justification that is used to “sell” the slots to the constituents.
Slots are touted as the panacea for the dying horse racing industry here in Maryland. We’re told that without the infusion of millions of slots dollars and the increased purses that would be derived from slot machine gambling that the $2 billion a year horse racing industry will fold.
Governor Ehrlich was quoted as saying that horse racing is “in excess of a $2 billion industry worth saving in this state.” What’s more, Ehrlich made this claim to the House of Delegate’s Ways and Means Committee in May 2003.
We’ve heard this for years and it has me thinking, exactly where does the $2 billion come from and where did the Governors get this number.
The Budget for the State of Maryland is approximately $1,472,263,097. This includes the Department of Education, Department of Corrections, Maryland Department of the Environment, Department of Labor , Licensing and Regulation, Board of Public Works and a laundry list of other bureaucracies. The dying horse racing industry is larger than the Maryland state budget!
Of course the politicians are talking economic impact. So I looked at an “industry” such as NASCAR and what it contributes to the economy of a state. By the way…why is it called the “Horse Racing Industry?” We don’t call the Ravens the “National Football League Industry” or refer to the Orioles as being part of the “The Major League Baseball Industry”
What I found is that the $2 billion impact that is being tossed around is greatly exaggerated. Some research shows that the 2006 Super Bowl in Michigan generated an estimated $302 million dollars in economic impact dollars. Michigan NASCAR generated $400 million dollars in “total economic activity” in 2006.
The NFL and NASCAR rank number 1 and 2 in American spectator sports and they draw tens of millions of fans each year and yet they are responsible for only 25% of the economic impact of our horse racing industry per their state! Amazing! Add to this the fact that the horse racing industry is dying and yet the economic impact stays constant! It just doesn’t add up!
It tires me when people write letters to editors and call talk radio shows threatening to move out of Maryland because they are horse breeders and they can’t make a living here in this state. They say without slots and the increased purses they cannot survive? Why not?
Why can’t they breed their horses here and ship them to the other states. I bet they eat food that is not grown in Maryland but is shipped in. I bet they watch television on a set that is not made in Maryland. We make steel and wine here that is shipped out of state. Must I go on?
The total monetary value of all agriculture, forest and fisheries in the state of Maryland is $1.6 billion. The horse racing industry alone, surpasses that number by $400 million, according to 2003 figures. That is, if we are to believe the politicians.
A 1999 study by the Office of Business and Economic Research in Maryland determined that the Ravens generated $184 million in overall expenditures. The Ravens! An NFL franchise that is the country’s number 1 spectator sport. A far cry from the “dying horse racing industry” claim of a $2 billion impact! Think what the impact would be if the sport wasn’t dying!
Then we’re told that we must save the Preakness, the granddaddy of all of Maryland horse racing, at all costs because of the “economic impact” of the event and the history of Maryland horse racing.
Give me a break! No one cares about the Preakness…it’s all about the party! Politicians go to be seen so that they can say they were there. Ask them if they have been to Pimlico in the previous 364 days and bet on the horses. I’ll bet they say “no.” And do you ever see the first ladies wear those big hats on any other occasion other than Preakness? What do they do with them after the Preakness? The Goodwill Store maybe?
Then ask the crowd that makes up the infieldthe same question and they’ll probably answer “What horse race?” The infield is an excuse for college age kids to drink beer and have a good time. If you want to keep the “economic engine” running in Pimlico, move the WHFStival to the infield on the third Saturday in May. It’s the same crowd. They’ll drink the same amount of beer but spend more on a ticket than the $50 a Preakness infield ticket costs.
Ask anyone if they can name 3 jockeys or 4 current race horses, what a furlong is, how long a track at Pimlico or Laurel is or what is a stone or a hand. Good luck getting the answers.
The local networks have long stopped giving the racing results from Laurel and Pimlico. I can tune in and watch girl’s basketball and high school football highlights but I can’t find out who won the third race at Laurel. Why is that?
There is no demand for the results. If we are to believe that Maryland horse racing enthusiasts are heading to other states to bet on the ponies then why don’t the local networks give those track results? See where I’m going here? Maybe it’s because no one cares.
There is horse race betting in the casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas as I’m sure in other states, but again, look where they place the betting areas in the casinos – in the back.
Sometimes you can’t find them and have to ask where they are. If they were that popular, my guess is that they would be right up front; right there when you walk in. Take a look at the billboards advertising the out-of-state casinos with horse racing. They make no mention of the horses but stress the slots and/or upcoming concerts.
The bottom line is that the bottom line has been greatly exaggerated to get you and me to support slots because the horse racing industry needs it. Balderdash! The sport of kings is dead! We have no kings in Maryland.
Now, am I against slots…No! I would rather see full blown casinos in the state with gaming tables though. Slots bring in the day-trippers and the small rollers. Gaming tables such as Blackjack, Baccarat, Craps and the like tend to draw the higher rollers. My gut tells me that these people tend to spend nights in the hotels, rent the limos, buy the jewelry and artwork and consequently spend more money.
Am I against horse racing…No! I just want it to stand on its own or at the very least, draw enough public interest to warrant a small amount of public subsidy. But $2 billion is a lot of dough, more than the NFL and NASCAR generate in a state like Wisconsin! That is if we are to believe what we’re being told.
I’m not even against horses. I love animals and the older I get the less I want to see animals and people suffer. So much so, that I don’t want to see them ridden and whipped so that someone can win a couple of bucks.
The fact is, without betting, there would be absolutely no horse racing! We watch the NFL and NASCAR and baseball every day/weekend and I never bet on them. Sure, some people do. The vast majority of their fans do not!
I’m not against the open spaces that raising horses requires either. However, my guess is that the majority of what passes for horse farms in Maryland do not raise thoroughbreds but some other breed of horse. A horse that is not used in racing might be a standard bred or quarter horse or maybe just a pet horse, but they are all grouped together as horse racing farms.
The $2 billion that is generated from Maryland horse racing just doesn’t add up, not by a long shot.
The sport of kings is dead. Long live the king.