Keno in Ocean City?

December 18, 1992

Unless Mayor Roland E. "Fish" Powell can stop the state in court, Ocean City soon could lose its image as a family sea-side resort. Big-time gambling, in the form of fast-paced keno, is on its way into town.

Mayor Powell isn't the only local official in Maryland concerned about the insidious implications of this vast gambling expansion being pushed by the Schaefer administration. In Westminster, Mayor W. Benjamin Brown wanted to slow the keno invasion by forcing all operators to get a conditional-use permit. But the city attorney said Westminster was powerless to act because keno is a state-run game.

That's Mayor Powell's bind, too. He's also in the uncomfortable position of angering his longtime friend and ally, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who has -- until now -- done so much to promote and support Ocean City's wholesome family image. Yet the governor's assistants already have contacted town business leaders, threatening to cut state aid to Ocean City unless they welcome keno with open arms. That's a despicable pressure tactic that should be stopped immediately.

Keno shouldn't be welcome in Ocean City, and Mayor Powell ought to take whatever legal steps are necessary to protect his community from this unwanted gambling invasion. State officials may call keno a socially acceptable lottery-style game, but it's far from benign. Unlike the daily lottery drawing, keno is played every five minutes, 18 hours a day. That's 90 drawings a day, starting at 6 a.m. and ending at midnight. There could be dozens of keno locations in town. Folks won't come to Ocean City for the surf, sun and boardwalk anymore; they'll come for the keno action.

Leaders in the ocean-front community are right to fear that other forms of gambling are almost certain to follow if the fast and furious keno game gains a firm foothold. And so will nefarious criminal elements that always lurk near gaming operations. Just look at what has happened to Atlantic City. Is Ocean City about to follow suit?

Gambling, keno-style, has few socially redeeming features. For Ocean City, it is especially dangerous. But keno is equally dangerous for quiet towns such as Westminster and even big cities such as Baltimore.

One way or another, keno should be killed.

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