By Sen. Roy Dyson

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]

The ink is barely dry on the final bill signing by Governor Parris Glendening on
legislation passed by the 1986 Maryland General Assembly. The symbolic ending of
one session means the beginning of work on the next session, even though that session
is nine months away.

Much work occurs between session. My committee is holding its first interim meeting
this week. Legislators are working on drafting bills which are pre-filed even before the
session begins. That means the bills are officially introduced on the first day of session
and it gives the bills the greatest chance of a fair hearing and possible passage.

Sometimes it takes a couple of sessions for an issue to catch on. Gambling is sure to be
raising its ugly head again. In the 1995 session, supporters of casino gambling won a
foot in the door with the formation of an executive committee to study the idea. When
that committee came back opposed to casino gambling, the supporters had to regroup.
With so fresh a defeat, they kept somewhat of a low profile during this year's session.
That doesn't mean they have given up the ghost.

What is likely to be proposed in next year's legislature is gambling at the state's horse
race tracks. The race track owners say that slot machines at Delaware race tracks are
causing a siphoning off of customers. They say they need the slots to survive. A trial
balloon was raised this past session on that idea but never got enough air to fly.

If the race tracks are allowed slot machines, that will be the foot in the door that the
gambling industry needs to push for more locations for the slots. The next logical place
would be the state's off-track betting (OTB) parlors. In Southern Maryland we have an
OTB location at Port Tobacco Marina.

The Charles County Commissioners recently went on record as opposing slot machines
at OTB parlors. They also are asking their staff to review zoning regulations for possible
revision to make it more difficult to locate OTB parlors in residential areas. The citizens
of the neighborhood next to the port Tobacco OTB parlor have been vocal in their
opposition to it.

My colleague, Charles County State Senator Thomas "Mac" Middleton is, as I am,
opposed to the reintroduction of slot machines to Southern Maryland. He and I are
planning to hold a strategy session this summer to see what we can do to legislatively
prevent slot machines from sneaking in the back door in Southern Maryland and the
rest of the state.

Since my first years in the Maryland House of Delegates in the 1970's and during my
five terms in the U.S. Congress, I was consistently opposed to casino gambling. In spite
of that history, I kept an open mind as the issue was resurrected once again for the state
to consider. My research plus that done by the governor's committee led me to
conclude that there is not only no new evidence to support casino gambling but there is
in fact much new evidence to support the notion that casinos are a detriment to a

Southern Maryland is on the verge of another economic boom from the expansion of
the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. I am more convinced than ever that slots in any
form, be they at casinos or OTB parlors, would send a very bad message to the Navy
and the folks who are moving here. We want to put forward a good image and a slot
machine economy is not a good image.

Just ask anybody who has strayed away from the casinos in Atlantic City what it's like.
Those casinos haven't helped the neighborhood around them. If anything they have
caused a further deterioration. We just don't need that for Southern Maryland and we
don't need it anywhere else in the state.

I can understand why areas of the state which are in worse economic condition than we
am would grasp at any economic straw. But if they look closely I feel they too would
conclude the economic benefits are illusory.

Factor in the social problems with compulsive gambling. Factor in the problems with
organized crime. The net result is bad news for the state of Maryland if we choose to
go that way. I'll do whatever I can to see it doesn't come to that.

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]