After a high-strung political battle lasting millions of years over the legality of slot machines ended with November's victory for the pro-gambling crowd, the state revealed Monday just how competitive the bidding process has been for the five allotted slot licenses: six bids. Well ... it's more than five! By one!
Now the state has very little leverage with the bidders in sale pricing, and it looks like that $600 million in projected state revenue will be much less. Additionally, the constitutional amendment allows for 15,000 operational slot machines, and between the bidders, only 10,550 were sought.
Come on, bidders. Gambling! Get rich quick!
Among the reasons officials are offering for the disappointing turnout: the terrible economy which, considering the millions of dollars it costs companies to simply place a bid as well as the state's comical 67 percent gambling tax, did not portend well for luring investment returns.
And yet, the decisions on whether or not to bid appear to have been made at the last minute. The Baltimore Sun reported, "Several bidders waited until the final minutes to haul boxes into the Department of Legislative Services," from where officials had set a 2 p.m. deadline for bids:
Lobbyists representing [racetrack owning company] Magna pulled up in a sport utility vehicle at 1:48 p.m., along with several other people. The car was full of boxes, but instead of unloading them, the group milled about, talking on cell phones and declining to answer reporters' question.
Eight minutes after the 2 p.m. deadline, a man took just one of the boxes, labeled "Laurel Racing" -- a Magna affiliate -- and walked it into the building, where Fry and others were waiting to unseal the bids.
What's the American Dream worth without a thriving gambling machine industry?