Carroll County and video poker

December 02, 1992

cf,bol By refusing this week to endorse legislation that woul legalize video poker games at Carroll County's fraternal organizations, Carroll County's commissioners have made a sound decision.

They resisted the entreaties of these groups, several of which have been raided for maintaining illegal gaming devices. Others have fallen on hard financial times and are casting about for ways to bolster their finances. Fortunately, however, the commissioners wisely put the welfare of the community ahead of the county's 10 fraternal lodges.

The question of legalizing video poker is likely to resurface, particularly since Gov. William Donald Schaefer seems adamant about installing keno lottery in Maryland. Carroll's fraternal organizations will argue that if the state can capitalize on people's weaknesses, they should be able to as well. After all, the fraternal lodges say, they are willing to give 50 percent of their net profits to charity.

There is a short answer: Two wrongs don't make a right.

The state is wrong to push keno as a quick and painless method of raising revenue and reducing the budget deficit. If the state is running short of money, the governor and the General Assembly have other choices. They can continue to cut government spending, or raise taxes, or a combination of the two.

Carroll's fraternal organizations also have choices other than video poker. If they are losing their clientele, then the members of those organizations have to figure out ways to attract people to their lodges. If they want to give more to charity, they can use the traditional -- and legal -- methods such as bull roasts, raffles and dances to raise money for good causes.

True, these methods require much more work and wouldn't generate as much cash. But at least they don't prey upon the poor and the gambling-addicted, as video poker would.

If there is gambling at Carroll's fraternal organizations, state laws must be enforced. Sheriff John Brown and State's Attorney Tom Hickman may have said they favored the legalization of video poker, but they have also taken oaths to uphold the state and county laws.

The two men indicated this type of gambling is harmless and should be under county control. But as long as there are hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake, video poker cannot be considered a harmless amusement.

Thankfully, the commissioners understood this.

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