Question 7 expands gambling in Maryland, may cause more bankruptcies

On November 6, Maryland voters approved a measure to vastly expand the footprint of legalized gambling in the Old Line State. The statewide vote took place in the wake of Maryland's most expensive political advertising campaign ever.

Although lawmakers had been leery of unleashing Maryland casinos, the promise of jobs in a slow economy led many at the polls to come down in favor of expanded gambling. However, while casinos do create employment opportunities, recent research shows they also tend to lead to more bankruptcy filings in nearby communities.

Addition of table games to existing casinos, more gambling halls opening soon

Previously, Maryland's casino industry was slots-only, and operated only during limited hours. Question 7, which 52 percent of voters approved, allows three existing Maryland gambling sites to stay open 24 hours a day and add table games by early 2013.

Two additional casinos are scheduled to open in Maryland within the next two years, one in Baltimore and another at Rocky Gap State Part. A proposal is in the works to open yet another casino in National Harbor over the District skyline in 2016; this massive gambling complex would have as many as 3,000 slot machines, as well as card and dice games.

Research linking legalized gambling and bankruptcy filings

Proponents of Question 7 cited a need to keep gambling revenue within Maryland, rather than letting it flow into neighboring states. Yet, gaming industry revenue comes at a price.

Melissa Kearney, an economist at the University of Maryland, and Maryland researchers William Evans and Julie Topoleski have all published work on the effects of gambling on local social issues. Among their findings: bankruptcy filings go up in communities that allow gambling, increasing by approximately 10 percent once legalized gaming becomes available.

The Maryland research has been replicated elsewhere. A study by Thomas Garrett and Mark Nichols of St. Louis found that Mississippi riverboat gambling increased bankruptcy filings not just among state residents, but also in nearby counties in neighboring states.

Talk to a Maryland bankruptcy attorney if you're in trouble financially

Gambling addictions affect thousands of Americans, and Question 7 will likely exacerbate the problem to some degree in Maryland. According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, having a casino within 50 miles doubles one's odds of becoming a problem gambler.

If you have found yourself in trouble financially, whether from gambling debt or other oppressive financial obligations, it is not too late to get help. Satisfying your debts through bankruptcy may be the best way to get a fresh start and move on. Talk to a Maryland bankruptcy attorney today to find out more about how bankruptcy could help you get back on the right track.