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Friday, April 22, 2005

The Slots Debate and the Preakness, Hialeah, and Gay Rights

- Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich raised the spectre of Pimlico losing the Preakness because of the failure to pass slots legislation, something he’ll likely be repeating as the race approaches next month. But the state apparently has a couple of poison pill-type defenses already in place.

If the race is moved from Maryland, the state would be entitled to increase its share of parimutuel wagering revenues from 0.5 percent to 4.07 percent. And if Magna was to attempt to sell title to the Preakness, the state has the right to step in and match the price.

Magna also could be subject to sizeable administrative penalties from the racing commission, according to state regulations. [Washington Post]

Following the lead of Governor Bush, high tax rate numbers on Broward County slots of 55 and even 60% are being tossed around the Florida House and Senate. Some proponents argue that state revenues would actually decrease with such high rates.
"There's a bell curve. You reach an optimum. When you increase the rate, you can't generate the profits to build a first class facility, and then fewer people will come," said former state Education Commissioner Jim Horne, a leading spokesman for the slots issue. [Sun-Sentinal]
Also, there’s talk of a revival of Hialeah Park, on the theory that a reopening would help bring slots to Miami-Dade county, where voters rejected them.

- In Maine, slots opponents are so desperate to overturn legislation that is bringing slots to Bangor Raceway, that they’ve decided to get into bed with wingnut Michael Heath and his Christian Civic League of Maine, who is attempting to similarly overturn the state’s gay rights laws. Casinos No! will combine petition signing efforts with them, though they both say they won’t directly promote the other’s agenda. (Via Albany Law School Racing and Wagering Page)

We’re not even talking about gay marriage here folks, the issue that supposedly helped re-elect the president, whose approval ratings, just a few months after the election, are now significantly lower even than Going Wild’s Beyer in the Wood. We’re talking about basic human rights in things like employment, housing, and education, protections which were passed (again, see below) only last month, making Maine the last New England state to do so. Heath’s organization is trying to obtain enough signatures for a “peoples’ veto,” which he successfully accomplished after the law passed in 1998. About the law, he said, "Normalizing homosexuality will lead to a higher incidence of homosexual practices and the negative side effects which such practices bring in terms of physical, mental and social health." [] In 2004, Heath threatened to gather information on the sexual orientation of Maine’s legislators and post them on his website, prompting much of the State House to turn “gay for a day.” [information from the blog Pudentilla's Perspective]

I have no particular animosity in general for opponents of slots as long as they leave religion and morals out of their arguments. But this group, by associating with Heath, rightfully earns the wrath of anyone interested in equal rights for all, and they should be ashamed. I can’t imagine that a few hundred slots machines in just one city in Maine could possibly be worth institutionalized discrimination against an entire class of the state’s citizens.

If I seem particularly sensitive about the subject of religion in politics today, perhaps it’s because I just read, via Atrios, that the new pope has decided to weigh in on laws passed by the democratically elected representatives of the sovereign country of Spain, with the Vatican advising Roman Catholics to lose their jobs rather than follow their country's laws. And on Sunday, in Louisville, Kentucky, where in two weeks 150,000 people of all faiths, sexual orientations, and opinions on how to handicap horse races will come together to participate in one of this country’s greatest signature events, the Majority Leader of the Senate will tell a conservative Christian group and the country that Democrats are “against people of faith.” It's enough to distract even me from a Saturday edition of the Racing Form.