By Jason Chorpenning and Shane Sterry
Chorpenning is president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 27 and Sterry is assistant vice president of the Seafarers Entertainment and Allied Trades Union.
On behalf of the more than 5,000 UFCW and SEATU represented employees working at three of Maryland’s casinos — Rocky Gap Casino & Hotel, Hollywood Casino, and Live! Casino & Hotel — and approximately 16,000 gaming industry workers who live in the Free State, we take issue with the Lottery Commission’s recent report to the General Assembly on iGaming — or “internet gaming” which would bring slot machines and poker games to your cell phones for unlimited gambling.
Well before this report was issued, we expressed to the governor and legislative leaders that the Lottery Commission report would be one-sided and biased. The Lottery Commission hired the Las Vegas-based Innovation Group, a pro-gaming research firm that touts being associated with more than $100 billion in gaming investment decisions. As an organization that gets its bread-and-butter from expanded gaming, we anticipated that they would dangle the “free gambling money” that iGaming could bring to state coffers from out-of-state and foreign companies who will make little investment in our state. The recently released report has confirmed our fears.
With its myopic focus on the gaming revenue these out-of-state and foreign companies might generate, the report glosses over the massive losses of Maryland jobs that would inevitably accompany iGaming. For example, in neighboring Pennsylvania, iGaming has eliminated 2,000 jobs — nearly 10% of all Pennsylvania brick-and-mortar casino jobs. Many other states, like Indiana, have said no to iGaming for the same reason — it’s a job killer.
And it is not only the 16,000 casino jobs in Maryland that are at stake. If iGaming were enacted in Maryland, there would be no incentive for the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos to make new capital investments to expand gaming floors, increase restaurant and entertainment options, or construct/expand hotel and lodging amenities. This will result in a loss of job opportunities for Maryland across industries and will lead to less real estate tax revenue, less personal property tax revenue, less income tax revenue, less alcohol tax revenue, and less sales tax revenue than are currently being realized.
In addition, we believe that iGaming will increase problem gaming to epidemic levels in Maryland if enacted. The National Council on Problem Gambling’s 2021 Survey on Gambling Attitudes found that online gamblers were as much as eight times more likely to report compulsive gambling problems and addictive behavior. Maryland’s own Center of Excellence, which reviews problem gaming, is still looking at the impact of mobile sports betting on problem gambling but we do know that certain demographic groups are two-to-three times more likely to be high-risk gamblers according to studies.
There is a reason that more than 40 states, including Nevada, have not pursued iGaming. Regardless of the Lottery Commission’s recent report, we are convinced that iGaming is a bad bet for Maryland workers and families. Now is not the time to gamble with thousands of Maryland jobs. We urge the governor and General Assembly to not take the bait and say NO to iGaming.