'The fat one'

November 27, 1992

Maryland's latest lottery game is aptly named. It's called "El Gordo," which is Spanish for "the fat one." State officials hope to be fat and happy when this mega-game of chance ends with a drawing on Dec. 26 -- $11 million happier in extra revenue. As for Marylanders unsophisticated enough to resist a shot at the $10 million top prize, they ought to be known simply as "the dumb ones" for throwing away $5 for a single ticket. Their odds of winning top prize: 5,000,000 to 1.

The growing hunger of state officials for more and more games of chance is a troubling spectacle. This new game, and especially the video keno that starts next month, will enormously enrich the lottery's vendor, G-Tech. And it surely will help Gov. William Donald Schaefer crawl out of the state's latest gaping deficit hole. But it is a perilous way to raise money for government services -- and a socially destructive one.

"Is this the kind of message we want to send to our citizens, our children, our poor?" asked Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening. Apparently, the answer from the Schaefer administration is "yes." It is barreling down the path of legalized gambling rapidly, never looking for the signal this sends to our citizens.

It's OK to gamble. It's OK to throw away all-too-precious dollars on longshot games of chance where the odds are stacked against you. The state not only sanctions this gambling, it aggressively encourages it, spending millions of dollars on advertising to lure the unsuspecting -- most often the poor -- to a lottery vendor.

Where will it end? At what point do state officials come to realize that government should never be underwritten with gambling revenues? They are selling a false dream and a false reality to millions of Marylanders. They are actively urging thousands of people to become gambling addicts.

Next month's "Quick Draw" keno games are especially dangerous. Hour after hour, at 400 new locations around the state, you'll be able to place your bets. With "Quick Draw" in place, it's just a short step to electronic video poker and electronic slot machines. This state is proceeding down a slippery slope. Is the governor so desperate for tax revenue he's willing to turn Maryland into a gambling mecca?

We hope not. The administration's gambling craze is getting out of hand. For nearly all of us, there's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow -- not even for the state of Maryland.


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