Markell wants to expand gambling to every corner of the tiny First State so he can give the struggling but influential casinos there a giant tax break.
Markell’s policy is a reverse Robinhood: Take from the poor and give to the rich.
Markell wants to expand keno from the casinos to 100 sites in the state, and allow betting on pro football to 20 sites. He also wants to legalize online gambling so citizens can play the lottery and casino games from the comfort of their home, office, dorm room and mobile phone. In return, Markell plans to give the casinos a massive tax break by eliminating the $4 million in slot machine fees paid to the state and slashing the fees casinos pay the state from table games from $6.75 million to $3 million.
The proposal amounts to a sweetheart deal for the casinos and a regressive tax for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Elected officials take an oath to protect and serve their citizens, not scheme to make them poorer. But it is plain to see that Markell is really about serving the influential casino lobbyists first.
The scene playing out in Delaware is a preview for what is to come in other states as gambling spreads and caninablizes revenues. Delaware enjoyed steady growth in gambling revenue for years. But competition from Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states has eroded revenues in recent years. To combat the drop in revenue, the influential casino lobbyists have leaned on lawmakers to negotiate more favorable terms in their monopoly gambling compact.
The real problem facing lawmakers in Delaware is that the state is addicted to gambling – and trying to look cool by having a black license plate. Delaware depends on gambling to fund a much larger percentage of its budget than other states. It worked when Delaware didn’t have any competition. But gambling revenues are not sustainable or dependable, especially as more states turn to gambling as a way to balance their budget. It’s a vicious cycle that leads lawmakers to further exploit their citizens by allowing more and more forms of gambling that only strips wealth from workers in order to pay for government services. In the long run, pushing more gambling is a losing proposition for everyone but the house.