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As Long as We Remember...

February 5, 2003

Much Ado About Nothing - The Perils Of Slots

John P. Snyder

The whining and carping about Gov. Robert Erhlich plan for slot machines at four racetracks has reached a fever pitch. There should be no doubt about it, opposition to slots is deeply rooted in thwarting the governor’s agenda early on.

Nothing would delight the legions of the tax ‘n spenders in Annapolis more than to have Bob Ehrlich wave the white flag and grudgingly sign onto their laundry list of tax increases.

Arguments raised by Delegate Luiz R. S. Simmons (D., Montgomery), who is against slots, are specious and shallow. He believes that lottery players will become slot players. Because the lottery players are generally poorer and less educated, he feels slots will create a burden for that downtrodden class.

Slots and lotteries are different entities.

Should Governor Ehrlich’s plan prevail, 3,000 slots will be available at each of the three racetracks - Laurel, Pimlico and Rosecroft Raceways. Another 1,500 will be reserved for a yet to be determined Allegheny site. Lottery tickets are available at any number of outlets. To play the slots you have to make a conscience decision to do so, like get in you car and drive to one of the racetracks that have them.

Opponents of slots invariably paint a bleak picture of the social costs of slots. No statistics, of course, just predictions of increased spousal abuse, prostitiution, child abuse and alcoholism. No doubt a very small percentage will succumb to a loose addiction to slots.

Should the vast majority of responsible players pay for those who can't handle the potential for excess? No. Should we close down all the buffets in town who offer "all you can eat" to shield the obese amongst us? Should credit cards be outlawed to protect the spendaholics amongst us? Of course not.

Legislators like Delegate Simmons risked their health when they tried patting themselves on the back for implementing the "Thornton Commissions" plan to spend $1.3 billion additional dollars on education.

Great election year ploy. The majority was unfunded. The part that was funded came from an increase in cigarette taxes. No tears were shed for the poor and lower class citizens that fueled that revenue stream for the state.

Opponents are forever citing high-minded worry that the burden will be born by the poor. Left unsaid is how you define poor. And who appointed people like Delegate Simmons as overseer of how the poor spend their money?

Those who oppose slots in Maryland occupy an interesting juxtaposition. The state has the most liberal abortion laws in the country. Baltimore has one of the highest murder rates in the land. Slots, to them, would somehow impugn the goodness of that which is Maryland. Please, spare us.

Governor Ehrlich never minced words regarding slots in Maryland during his campaign. He supports them. He won. Just like when the Intercounty Connector (ICC) died when Parris Glendening won. He was against it. He won. It was buried.

People in West Virginia and Delaware have managed to survive slot machines. No reason why we can't do the same in Maryland.

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