I admit, I initially thought Question7--expanded gambling--would easily pass next month. After all the original referendum allowing slots passed with 59% of the vote.
However, two polls from Gonzalez and Opinion Works show the push for expanded gambling is in for a defeat. Last week's Gonzalez poll showed Marylanders opposed to expanded gambling by a narrow margin, 46-45. Today we see an Opinion Works poll showing 53 percent of Marylanders opposed to expansion and just 38 percent supporting. While the Gonzalez poll shows a tighter contest, it is interesting to note their survey found, "among those who say expanded gaming is most likely to get them out to vote, 54% say they’ll vote against Question 7, representing intensity on the side of opponents."
With massive amounts of money pouring in from both sides, more than the total spent during the last gubernatorial election, the campaign has to come down to messaging. You can't watch the news or football game without seeing a Question 7 ad.
Clearly, as the polls show, the opponents have the better message in the air war. There are two keys, I believe, to their winning message.
First, opponents have done a masterful job exposing the lie that expanded gambling automatically means more money for schools. The loophole allowing new gambling revenues to be spent on programs other than education is real and voters get it.
However, one overlooked aspect is the fact that the ads play on the fallacy that more money spend on education equals better educated kids. Voters opposed to expanded gambling believe that the extra money won't go to education, but that is because they most likely also believe the fallacy that more money means better schools.
The other factor is that gambling opponents have stressed the unseemly manner in which the referendum legislation passed the legislature. The Baltimore Sun quoted a Dundalk man who said "O'Malley handled this behind closed doors,' Thomas said. 'It was put off to a special session. There are tax deductions for whoever runs these gambling conglomerates. I really don't like that."
Tax breaks for casino moguls passed in a back room deal after enacting a large tax hike on working families? Like drawing a seven deuce off suit, that's a hard hand for gambling proponents to overcome.