As this Washington Post article indicates, the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore is in the midst of hiring 1,500 people to staff its new facility. Some 500 of those positions will be for full-time dealers who earn as much as $55,000 per year. The idea of a downtown DC casino should be on the table.
The Employment Case — Two to three thousand construction jobs for as many as three years; 1,500 permanent positions, including hundreds of dealer positions paying middle-class wages. Very few of these positions require a college degree.
The Competitiveness Case — In two years a $1 billion casino will open within 15 minutes of DC at National Harbor. Thousands of people who would have stayed in District hotels will now stay at National Harbor and simply come to DC for the day. This represents the loss of millions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue.
The Economic Case — Maryland Live collected $586 million in gross gambling revenue in 2013. The District has very few $586 million businesses that pay a special, higher, tax rate on their earnings.
The Fiscal Case — Maryland Live contributed $213 million in gaming taxes to Maryland’s education trust fund in 2013. I’m not aware of a single DC politician who would say no to $213 million in new, annual tax revenue.
The Case Against — Is purely moral. There are some who think gambling is somehow inherently evil and that it brings with it ancillary crime. We’ve seen a gambling experiment in action across our border with Maryland for several years now. We see no evidence of increased crime, or gambling addiction. It turns out casinos on the Las Vegas strip are making more money with their hotels and other services, than they are with gambling. It’s also become a family destination. This gives every casino a built-in incentive to stay clean and hospitable.
We would like to encourage the Gray administration to study the matter, especially its economic and fiscal implications. We’re not saying we’d be in favor of a DC casino in all circumstances, but it’s definitely something that should be on the table in terms of economic development and job creation.