The reactions heard over the last week after a clear majority of state voters said they support slots machines in Maryland have ranged from the ridiculous to the naïve.
There comes a time when folks need to get a grasp of reality. Yes, slots are coming to Maryland, specifically and most likely the Ocean Downs racetrack, but all the hysterical people out there bemoaning last week's vote as the end to our existence as a lovely place to raise a family need to get a grip. On the opposite end of the spectrum, those proclaiming slots as a wonderful financial cure-all with little to no impact on the areas hosting them need to wake up.
Last week's vote was a big deal because it will change Maryland. However, there is no need for panic or celebration. Last week's vote means there will be an adjustment for us all. The good news is the earliest anyone will be playing here or at the five other sites spread throughout the state is 2011 and that's not even a certainty because there is much to be done before that happens.
We do not support slots, but we understand why so many Marylanders, including those living in Ocean City and the county, think their time has come. Unfortunately, the downward spiral of the economy made the referendum's outcome obvious. People assume, wrongly we think, that the forecasted revenues slots will bring to Maryland will become reality. They gobbled up the revenue allocation to education, buying into the unrealistic expectations that slots will ail state school systems trying to secure enough funds to make adequate yearly progress, as outlined in federal and state measures.
It's understandable folks are reacting in extremes but we need to get some perspective and see the big picture. We do not believe all the worst-case predictions slots opponents are suggesting. We do not think crime will soar to the point we feel unsafe in our neighborhoods nor do we think businesses will close their doors in the face of increased competition.
Ocean City businesses have a right to be concerned about locals and visitors disposable incomes, but the successful companies will adapt and make the best of the situation, one that will not be as dramatic as some fear.
The situation must now be monitored closely. It will take an act of the legislature, and perhaps even another constitutional amendment requiring a referendum, to allow any more slots parlors or even additional terminals at the existing sites or sports books or card games. There are safeguards available, but we all need to pay attention and make sure this process moves as slow as the legislation spells out. In the meantime, the area and its businesses have to be deliberate and ready to adapt as more is learned about what's ahead. The old adage. 'hope for the best, prepare for the worst' rings true here.