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OPA Slots Money – A Postmortem
Commentary by Joe Reynolds

I have read the slots legislation several times. Today I went over it in some detail in regards to how much money will be coming to local jurisdictions like Worcester County. My review has changed my thinking on this issue to some extent.

Worcester County will not receive a percentage of the slots income produced at a slots facility in this county, as I and many others have thought. The formula of how much comes to Worcester and other track locations is somewhat complicated.

Here's how it will work in numbers that may not be exact but fairly close:

The bill provides that 5.5% of total state income goes to local impact grants. Of that 82% goes to the local jurisdictions like Worcester County.

The bill authorizes 15,000 machines. Assuming a somewhat conservative take of $80,000 per machine statewide, the total state take is $1.2 billion. 5.5% of that is $66 million, and 82% of that is about $54 million.

Now, the amount provided to each county (or Baltimore City) will be a percentage of the $54 million based on each location's percent of contribution to the state total.

Here are the five locations and what amounts to my guess (a guess is all anyone can do at this time) as to the percentage of total that will be contributed by each:

  • Anne Arundel County -- 30%
  • Cecil County 20%
  • Allegheny County 10%
  • Baltimore City 25%
  • Worcester County 15%

Assuming 15% for Worcester, the Worcester total take would be about $8 million. If the Worcester operation total state take ended up at only 10% then the county would receive back about $5.4 million. A 10% mandated share for OPA would be $800,000 or $540,000 or some other number depending on how much the Worcester location contributed to the total state income from slots.

Keep in mind that these are more or less best case scenarios after all 15,000 slot machines are in operation state-wide. Also keep in mind that locations like Anne Arundel and Baltimore City could bring in substantially more per machine than a slots operation in Worcester and thus their contribution to the state-wide take might well increase their percentage of the total local distribution to the detriment of locations like Worcester.

Over the first few years of operation it appears Worcester may receive back as little as $4 million, perhaps less. 10% of that for OPA would be around $400,000.

My conclusion is OPA might receive $400,000, or lower, and increasing to a potential max of around $800,000.

Whether these amounts are worth battling for is the question. The county is not likely to totally ignore Ocean Pines if OPA is not mandated 10%; one might assume the county would provide OPA with perhaps about 5%. Under that assumption a mandated amount would result in only $200,000 to $400,000 more for OPA.

These are not small amounts; however I'm not sure they are worth going to war over. While it is a shame OPA's local delegates, county commissioners, and the OPA Board of Directors will not support an effort to obtain a mandated share for OPA, and will make political hay over whatever is doled out to OPA by the county, the probable reality is the citizens of Ocean Pines will have to live with it. The only recourse will come in future elections.

Make no mistake about it, as the slots events unfolded over the past year our elected representatives let us down. These include County Commissioners Boggs and Busick, OPA General Manager Tom Olson (OPA has no business in political matters), OPA President Bill Zawacki (OPA should not be involved in anything outside the boundaries of the Ocean Pines subdivision), and the entire OPA board for totally ignoring a letter on slots income from OPA resident Norm Katz as the legislation first moved stage-center in Annapolis. The idea that Worcester County Commissioners would exact revenge on OPA for even trying to obtain a mandated percentage, an idea espoused by some in Ocean Pines, is a disgusting thought, at best. The shame is they are probably correct.

Finally, the county will receive only 70% of total local distribution (OC receives 20% and Berlin 10%), about $5.6 million in best case scenario and possibly as low as $3.8 million. This is not a great deal of money when quality of life in the area is taken into consideration. From a northern Worcester County quality of life and financial standpoint, the scales surely tip to indicate slots are a bad deal.

Uploaded: 1/29/2008