Montgomery County Del. Luiz Simmons, an ardent slots foe, told The Examiner the state shouldn’t prioritize aid for horse racing at a time “when tuition is going up and there are unmet needs for health care and transportation projects.”
“I can’t stomach giving $100 million each year to bail out a dying business,” Simmons said. “Maryland horse racing only provides 9,000 mostly part-time jobs, .2 percent of jobs in the state.”
Last month, Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved bringing 15,000 slots machines for racetracks in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties and Baltimore City. Gov. Martin O’Malley and other slots proponents across the state said the move was critical to closing a massive state budget gap of more than $1 billion and preventing cuts to schools.
Simmons, however, said he believed the majority of his colleagues in the state Legislature would rather spend the money on more pressing state needs.
“The horse-racing class has politically and culturally been instrumental players in Maryland politics for years,” Simmons said. “People say, ‘What would happen if we lost the Preakness?’ ... If you’re telling me I would have to watch that on TV but every four years I would have an extra $400 million for the state, I would make the trade-off.”
O’Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said the allocation of slots revenue was already set.
“Slots, including the revenue generated by them, is an issue that has been debated for many years, and was ultimately decided by the voters in November,” Adamec told The Examiner.
Republican state Sen. Andy Harris said he didn’t think Simmons’ proposal would be popular with legislators.
“Slots were originally proposed as the mechanism for saving the horse-racing industry,” Harris said. “I would be absolutely opposed to it becoming an additional revenue increase for the government, and I think it would be difficult to find a group of legislators who would turn their back on an industry that is historically and economically very important to the state of Maryland.”