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Craig: Casino Could Cover Pension Costs

Harford County Executive David Craig addressed education and a possible casino on WBAL radio Wednesday.

said a casino could bring as much as $8 million to the county, or as he sees it, enough to cover the educational funding shortfall the county is facing.

Craig spoke on WBAL radio Wednesday afternoon, addressing educational funding, the transfer of pensions from the state level to the county level as well as the .

The casino might solve the other issues, Craig said.

"It would bring in anywhere from six-and-a-half to eight million dollars, which would almost cover the cost [of the shifted pensions]," Craig said.

Craig for county employees after the .

"I think they were hoping that we would all be forced to raise our property taxes" Craig said, adding that he resisted that maneuver.

"It did hurt our employees," Craig said.

The county was responsible for 50 percent of pension costs this year, and an additional 25 percent in each of the next two years. Harford County budgeted for $5.5 million for pensions this year, with projections for $7.8 million next year, and $10.8 million the following year.

In his address Tuesday to the state work group on gaming expansion, Craig—a former teacher and Harford County Public Schools administrator—said, "Furthermore, I feel strongly that the state legislation should specify that all of the Local Impact Grant revenue be allocated to Harford County Government, who then must appropriate 100 percent of those funds to the Harford County Board of Education."

Despite having Hollywood Casino Perryville just across the Susquehanna River in neighboring Cecil County, Craig felt a casino with a partnership with neighboring municipalities would be beneficial to the region.

"While it may not be realistic for every county in the state to have a casino, various counties could reach a revenue sharing agreement that allows multiple jurisdictions to share the costs and benefits," he said during his Tuesday address.

Craig actually pointed to the opening of Hollywood Casino Perryville, itself, as an example of thriving in proximity to a competitor.

"Despite being only 27 miles away from the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Delaware Park saw revenues rise slightly after the Perryvillle Casino opened," he said. "So you should not immediately dismiss the possibility of a casino in Harford County for fear of hurting Perryville without conducting a detailed analysis."

Craig closed his address by suggesting a new angle on Maryland gaming—taking it to the state's most notable attraction: the Chesapeake Bay.

Craig recommended the consideration of a riverboat casino on the Susquehanna River, which provides the barrier between Harford County and the Eastern Shore.

"What really determines the success of a gaming facility is whether it is well-run and whether it offers something different than its competitors. Some casinos are adjacent to race tracks, while others offer various kinds of entertainment and fine dining. Given our location at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, I think it would be worthwhile to consider a riverboat casino for Harford County. Such casinos have been highly successful in towns and cities along the Mississippi River and on the Gulf Coast. A riverboat is also mobile, which means that it could even be shared with other areas of the state," Craig said.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty .

Ultimately, Craig simply wants an equal shake for Harford County when it comes to consideration for new gaming sites.

"I feel that other counties would also like to have this ability," he said. "Only allowing five or six jurisdictions to take advantage of this opportunity means that there are 18 or 19 counties that cannot. This is certainly not in keeping with the concept of 'One Maryland.'"

Patch staff member Kirsten Dize contributed to this article.

Leslie Schildgen June 14, 2012 at 01:05 PM
I want a county executive who works to renegotiate these underfunded pensions with the unions like Wisconsin did. You need to fix the ridiculous deficits that the Board of Education is suffering from and cut spending. If the private sector had a deficit, the pensions would be cut and phased out to save the business.
JP Turndall June 14, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Xie Cai, Those are awfuly broad dispersions to throw out there. Do you have any examples or proof to what it is you are saying about David Craig? If you read David Craig's full position on the issue, you can see that he wants Harford voters to have the opportunity to decide on whether or not they want a casino. What's wrong with putting the issue to the people? I for one would rather see gaming in Harford County than have my taxes go up to pay for the teacher pensions that the state dumped on the county. How would you pay for it?
Peter Nincompoop June 14, 2012 at 02:55 PM
He does what is best for himself, this current point of a casino is just playing into his bid for Governor, and then when he has done what is best for himself he panders to his campaign donors, developers and other big business types that have led to the overdevelopment of Harford County, I am personally glad to see him go as county executive, although I am sure Mr. Council President has his eye on the office, and Mr. Boniface is not any better
lierry benks June 14, 2012 at 03:37 PM
This Harford County casino issue is a farce. Its never going to happen as long as Cecil county has a cosino. If the county needs money to pay for teachers, firemen and police just raise taxes? This country needs to rid its fear of taxes.
George Helm June 14, 2012 at 03:56 PM
It's amazing how we all can be diverted from the main issue, our buddy O'Malley dumping the funding of teacher pensions on the counties. I haven't heard anyone ask the state about how much money the state will save and where the money saved will be applied. It seems to me this is just ploy to raise taxes which every county will have probably have to do eventually as this is always the politicians first choice rather than cut services or spending!

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