Menace of keno heralds scenario of utter goofiness


December 17, 1992|By DAN RODRICKS

I don't know about you, but I'm having nightmares abou keno.

This is the game of chance that originated in China 3,000 years pTC ago, during the wicked Keno Dynasty, and is now due to hit Maryland in January, during the goofy Schaefer Dynasty.

There has been an uproar like you wouldn't believe, with muldoons everywhere blasting keno as a torpedo speeding toward our ship of state. There's this one loudmouth state delegate who keeps saying that Maryland is about to become "the sewer of gambling on the East Coast," which must have the tourism priests in Atlantic City concerned about losing their title.

Fanning the odor of corruption is the U.S. attorney's office, which is investigating the state's $49 million keno contract with the company whose task it is to inflict this new evil on the populace.

All the predictions about Maryland keno are dire, bleak and ugly.

I'm having nightmares.

I see nice, clean communities across the state, from Hagerstown to Bel Air to Trappe, suddenly miserable little sin towns, full of hobos, drunks, hookers, panhandlers, hustlers, pimps, scoundrels, loathsome sluggards, depraved carpet salesmen and bartenders who look like Sheldon Leonard.

After keno, Maryland becomes Potterville -- as if George Bailey had never been born.

I tell you, there won't be an arm in this state without a tattoo.

There will be one phone number for everyone -- 911.

We'll have to find a toxic waste dump for our morals.

Bruce Bereano will become governor, Marvin Mandel attorney general. William Donald Schaefer will marry a woman named Ginger and open a bar with 100 keno machines.

I tell you, it's a nightmare!

If keno comes, the new state song will be, "Whistlin' Past the Graveyard," and sung by Tom Waits. The state flower will be plastic. The state plant will be poison sumac. The state sport will be dwarf-tossing. Cats will sleep with dogs, locusts will eat all the strawberries. Children will fight over chicken necks. There will be mayhem on the streets, and pandemonium on the field. The only stores left will be Food Lion. Grown men will dress up like cave men and try to sit on Santa's lap. After keno, Maryland will have the quality of life of a Mad Max movie.

I see thousands of bars full of degenerate gamblers, with lots of stale cigarette smoke over layers of cigarette smoke from all the years gone by, with high school dropouts drinking beer and cheap whiskey chasers, with women with big hair sitting at bars and drinking and smoking and getting all wrinkled and ornery. Then, over in the corner, by the glow of the Michelob sign, there's a sallow-skinned guy in a denim jacket playing keno, and he's punching at the machine, cursing under his breath, coughing up smoke. He's as grim as February rain.

Multiply that by 10,000, friends, and that's Maryland After Keno.

More degenerate gamblers will descend on the state.

They like to travel. Believe me. I know. I've met degenerate gamblers. They're your friends, your neighbors, the boy next door, my Aunt Grace.

"Danny, you wouldn't believe it," a guy from New York once told me over coffee at a shop in Timonium, near the race track. "I would be having sex with my wife and, right in the middle of it, I'd get up and call my bookie. That's how bad it was."

Now the guy will be able to get up and go to a keno parlor.

Is this what we want in this state? More men leaving their wives? Marriages breaking up for the sake of a balanced budget?

Do we really want guys with red eyes and dirty T-shirts filling up our bars and bowling alleys, staying at the keno machines till the wee hours of the morning, wasting away their paychecks on this fast-paced game?

Here's a vision of Christmas future:

A woman in a patched cloth coat, clutching an infant in her arm, holding a 4-year-old girl by the hand. She's in the snow outside a keno parlor. Her husband is inside, blowing the rent and the Pampers budget. "Al," she yells. "Al, come out of there!" And the child at her hand weeps, "Daddy, come home."

Soon, it's just the 4-year-old in the snowy street, and she's yelling, "Mommy, Daddy, come home!"

If keno comes, these nightmares become reality.

My fellow citizens, it is time to start praying.

The evil is at the gate.

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