Describing Horseshoe Casino as a future “anchor institution” of Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake yesterday defended the beefed-up police presence at the facility.
The mayor said her property tax reduction plan rides on the casino’s ability to generate sufficient revenues and, as a result, “the casino’s security team and the Baltimore City Police Department work hand-in-hand on a regular basis on how to respond to public safety concerns around the casino.”
The Brew reported Tuesday that the police department has more than doubled the originally-planned staff – from 7 officers to 18 officers – to a “casino mini-district” around the facility. Three shifts of police are currently assigned to the casino district, the majority of them on overtime pay from the department’s general fund.
In addition, the city has spent $1,024,000 for fiber-optic infrastructure and CitiWatch cameras along the perimeter of the casino, with staff assigned to monitor the cameras around the clock.
Security Question Sidestepped
Asked why Caesars Entertainment, the casino operator, does not provide more of the security, the mayor did not directly respond.
Instead, she talked about the casino’s importance in achieving her plans for “continued property tax reduction, the funds for school construction and recreation center plans.” The mayor is counting on the casino to pay for a 2-cent-a-year reduction in homeowner property taxes and has allocated 10% of casino property tax receipts for school and recreation center construction.
In addition to property taxes, the casino generates “community impact funds” from its slot machine earnings. In the first two months of casino operations, those funds have been below the administration’s projections.
In September, the casino generated $733,370 in such funds, according to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. In October it generated $693,959 despite an extra (31st) day in the month, the agency reported yesterday.
Police Presence to be Expected
Rawlings-Blake explained at her weekly press conference that “we work with our institutions, whether it’s the casino or the universities and colleges or hospitals, to develop effective policing strategies. And we will do that with Horseshoe as well. It will become one of our anchor institutions, for lack of a better word, in the city. And its success is important.
“Now it is also important to make sure we have a long-term strategy that makes fiscal sense for the city. And just as we have done with all of the other city institutions that I’ve spoken about, I’m sure we’ll get there with Horseshoe Casino.”
“How will you get there?” she was asked.
“We’ll see what’s necessary,” she replied, explaining that Baltimore Police and Caesars’ security team meet on a regular basis to determine “how best to respond to public safety concerns around the casino.”
Asked if there have been many safety concerns since the casino opened on August 26, the mayor answered, “It’s a casino. I think everyone expected it to be consistent with every other casino in the country that has increased police presence, has increased security, because of the amount of money translated there.”
She continued, “It’s expected. Look at Las Vegas. The whole city, their public safety infrastructure, is incredible. It’s because of all the casinos that are there.”