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Why are we even considering passing a slots bill?

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on March 26, 2003:

Senator Dyson Disingenuous, ill-advised, poorly constructed and just wrong is Senate Bill 322 -- otherwise known as “the slots bill.”

Debate over the bill began March 20 in a sharply divided Senate over this issue. What I heard from the slots proponents only strengthened my already intense opposition to slots.

The original gambling bill proposed that 64 percent of the slots funding would go towards education. The horse racing track owners screamed foul and they subsequently got a bigger slice of the pie.

The next proposal earmarked more money for the dying horse racing industry in Maryland than it did for education. Only a handful of already very rich men and women will stand to gain a fortune if slots are approved.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, faced with a Herculean task to rework the slots bill, gave back a slight majority to education funding, but still allotted the horse racing industry 39 percent. Gambling in general is bad public policy. Funding education through gambling specifically sets an exceptionally terrible precedent.

I can understand the argument that any money that is earmarked towards education is good. I just don’t agree.

Gambling only leads to incredible social ills -- crime, bankruptcy, suicide, and divorce -- even road congestion. And, it is, simply put, run by unsavory characters who would make Tony Soprano proud.

All I heard during initial floor debate was money, money, money. Who would be making what. Who would be getting what. One Senator said that if a track owner in his district didn’t get what he wanted, he would not vote for slots. I was astounded that such a major vote would be beholden to a millionaire, who it was pointed out was not available for his opinion on the matter because he was vacationing in Europe.

Others pointedly questioned just how certain the bill’s supporters were that the revenue being promised would actually be delivered. No clear answers were forthcoming.

There are some other unsavory provisions in the bill. One addresses how licenses will be granted and taken away from a licensee. They must undergo a background investigation to make sure they are not a “career offender.”

The bill also concedes that there will be a problem with gambling addiction because money has been set away for treatment programs. However, one expert in the field of compulsive gambling said the money this bill will set aside for treating compulsive gambling “is a drop in the bucket.”

The gambling bill also concedes that crime and criminals will be a problem.

This simply doesn’t make any sense. The Senate is poised to pass a bill that admits people will come forward who are “career offenders,” another word for criminal, to apply for licenses. It also admits that there will be a problem with gambling addiction.

It also states that crimes that occur within the communities surround a video lottery, or slots, facility are to be reported to the Department of the State Police.

In addition to giving these casino owners millions of dollars -- much like the State gave to the owners of the Ravens when they came to Baltimore – we’ll also end up paying millions of dollars to pay for infrastructure improvements. In other words, the state will build nice new roads in and out of these casinos while more important projects such as the Hughesville bypass and the Inter-county Connector wait for who knows how long to be funded.

And this is good public policy?

It isn’t. It’s a bad bill. It should not be approved by the legislators of this, the greatest State in the country.

When slots were legal in Southern Maryland from the 1930s through 1960s, corruption in local governments was rampant and the social ills mentioned above were ruining families and businesses. We were called Little Las Vegas, Sin City and even worse. I don’t want to see us return to those old days.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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