By refusing this week to endorse legislation that would legalize video poker games at Carroll County's fraternal organizations, the commissioners made the correct decision.
They resisted the entreaties of these groups, several of which have been raided for maintaining illegal gaming devices and others that have fallen on hard financial times. The commissioners correctly 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 appears adamant about installing keno lottery in Maryland. Carroll's fraternal organizations will argue if the state can capitalize on people's weaknesses, why shouldn't they? 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 neither do these methods 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 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.