Two studies, two takes on gambling revenue -- Gazette.Net


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Two studies released last week offered very different pictures of the impact of expanded gambling in Maryland.

One predicts that a new casino in Prince George’s would bring in far less revenue than supporters hope. Another, sponsored by a coalition that supports the new facility, argues that without a new casino, more than $1 billion in Maryland money will be spent at a casino in West Virginia during the next 10 years.

The studies landed with just weeks left before voters will decide on the measure and in the midst of a fierce ad battle between supporters led by MGM Resorts International, which wants to put a casino at National Harbor, and opponents led by Penn National Gaming, which owns Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, W.Va.

As of Thursday, spending on both sides of the campaign totaled more than $40 million.

At least 45 percent of the revenues at a Prince George’s facility would be siphoned from casinos in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, according to the study published by the conservative, nonprofit Maryland Public Policy Institute.

The report, written by Joseph V. Kennedy, draws in part on a PricewaterhouseCoopers study conducted for the state last summer, as well as analyses by the Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute and Business Research & Economic Advisors.

With a new casino, table games and adjustments to the tax rate, as approved by lawmakers in August, state revenues would increase by $60.5 million per year, but the operators’ share would grow by $225.8 million a year, according to the study.

Supporters of expanded gambling and a new casino, citing state fiscal estimates, argue that the changes would bring about $200 million in tax revenues to the state’s Education Trust Fund, as well as additional grant money to local jurisdictions.

“Tax revenue is unlikely to rise much and may even fall compared to what would be the case if no sixth casino were built,” Kennedy wrote.

Maryland is also competing with casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware, which could easily fight against the increased competition by lowering their own tax rates or building more casinos, according to the study.

“The state has no competitive advantage that would protect it from price competition other than its locational distance, which is not great,” Kennedy wrote.

A separate report, sponsored by supporters of the new casino and conducted by the Sage Policy Group, offered a sunnier view of the potential economic impact of expanded gambling.

A Prince George’s casino “by virtue of location and with the inclusion of table games will both ensure Maryland will be competitive with other mid-Atlantic states on gaming,” wrote economist Anirban Basu, Sage’s CEO, in the report.

After examining revenues from the Charles Town casino during 10 years, as well as the drop in revenue that followed the opening of Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County, Basu estimates that if the expansion effort is voted down, Marylanders will spend between $1.1 billion and $1.5 billion at the West Virginia casino over the next decade.

Basu’s analysis focuses solely on Charles Town, but he acknowledges “the impact of Pennsylvania and Delaware facilities on Maryland’s economy should not be discounted.”

dleaderman@gazette.net