After years of trying to turn invisible on the issue of commercial bingo, Anne Arundel County has finally decided to do something about one of the longest-running disgraces in local government. County Executive Robert R. Neall has created a task force to draft new regulations aimed at keeping mob types out of the business and establishing an accountability trail for cash and profits.
This comes after six reputed mobsters were indicted on federal charges of siphoning dirty money through Bingo World in Glen Burnie and supplying owner Stephen B. Paskind, an unindicted co-conspirator, with more than $1 million.
Anne Arundel has been anything but diligent in its oversight of these legal gambling parlors. The county blindly rubber-stamped not one but two license renewals for Mr. Paskind, a 50-year old Floridian, before discovering that he had pleaded guilty to five gambling felonies in 1981 and allegedly associated with organized crime figures.
These discoveries prompted the county to deny Mr. Paskind's latest request for a license, yet he continues to profit from his lucrative commercial bingo business while the matter is under appeal.
Bingo World is an example of why for-profit bingo is bad, something concluded by virtually every jurisdiction in the U.S., save Indian reservations. Despite the money it brings in -- up to $2 million in direct taxes -- this gambling opens the door to shady characters and illicit activity.
The county has in the past proposed stiff background checks of operators and close monitoring of funds. Organized crime types could easily surmount the first hurdle by recruiting squeaky-clean front men. As for the second obstacle, it is lTC doubtful that the county has the budget or the expertise necessary to keep dirty money out of the bingo halls or to keep bingo profits clean.
Past administrations have doggedly defended for-profit bingo in Anne Arundel, citing public support and the fact that there are some honest operators. This kind of indulgence serves neither bingo-goers -- who can still flock to non-profit halls -- nor taxpayers, who will ultimately bankroll the expense of increased surveillance. The task force should be the first step in a process ++ that ultimately leads to the long-overdue outlawing of for-profit bingo in Anne Arundel County.