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Gambling can ruin lives, doesn’t belong in Maryland

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on July 19, 2001:

Senator Dyson When I hear the possibility of slot machines being legalized in Maryland, I often recall that old 70s song with the lyrics “I see a bad moon rising. I see trouble up ahead.”

Currently and ironically, two Senate task forces have been created in Annapolis to study two addictive practices: Gambling and drugs. While the drug task force that I sit on has been given the responsibility of identifying the reasons why drug use is so prevalent in Maryland and then coming up with solutions to try to curb it, I hope the gambling task force will also address the problems associated with gambling addiction, especially among the elderly.

Since the proposal of legalizing slots has been brought up, little has been mentioned during the debate about how addictive and destructive slots can be to anyone who pulls the “magic” lever.

No one seriously considers legalizing drugs in Maryland despite a fringe group’s support for doing such a reckless thing. But when it comes to gambling, it looks as though we are at a point where we are on the brink of legalizing something at least as addictive as drugs. This just doesn’t make any common sense.

Yet some very influential -- and very intelligent -- people are ignoring the negatives of legalizing gambling of which there are many. The spin doctors in support of gambling (in other words the lobbyists with big pockets) are trying to sell us a bag of goods that we are losing money to neighboring states such as Delaware and Pennsylvania that have legalized slots. They also say they will limit them only to race tracks. The most cynical argument is that by not further legalizing gambling, we will be dismissing a financial resource that will allow the state to spend gaming revenues on education.

These pro-gambling lobbyists will stoop as low as accusing those of us who are anti-gambling as also being anti-education. Hogwash.

Maryland’s school system is one of the finest in the country and Republican and Democratic legislators alike consider education spending to be one of their top priorities. It certainly is one of mine. So to insinuate that taking money away from our education system by not supporting an insidious and destructive policy of legalizing gambling is insulting to those who are opposed to slots.

I recently made a call to my friend, Dr. Valerie Lorenz, director of the non-profit Compulsive Gambling Center, Inc. in Baltimore, MD. This is the oldest center in the country that deals with the addiction of gambling.

Dr. Lorenz, who is respected nationally for her knowledge of the dangers of gaming, said that calls to the national hotline for gambling addicts by senior citizens has risen substantially over the past several years.

I am not surprised that this is happening. Recently, I was given a post card from a senior citizen from Bally’s casino that offers a “FREE ROOM COMP At BALLY’s!” That’s in the big type. Down at the bottom of the card in the smallest type possible, a very long disclaimer states: “Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. Bet with your head, not over it.” How responsible of them to do this.

Dr. Lorenz also said that parents are taking their children along to these “vacation” gambling resorts and that they are allowed to watch their mothers and fathers stuffing quarters, dollars or credit cards into the slots “which are the most addictive forms of gambling,” according to Dr. Lorenz. This does nothing but set a bad precedent for our children.

“Clearly, the casino industry is targeting older seniors and youthful players,” said Dr. Lorenz.

Dr. Lorenz also warns that slot machines will only be limited to race tracks for a very short time.

“Limiting them to race tracks is very discriminatory,” Dr. Lorenz said. “What about Camden Yards and PSI Net Stadium where the Ravens play. If the racetracks get them, then the restaurant association will want them, bars will say it’s unfair competition and then they will be everywhere.

“Getting slots at the racetracks is [the gaming lobby] just getting their foot in the door and never stopping.”

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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