Was disconcerting, to say the least.On a...

THE JUXTAPOSITION

February 08, 1994

THE JUXTAPOSITION was disconcerting, to say the least.

On a billboard in East Baltimore, the state was simultaneously promoting tourism, with a picture of one of Maryland's famed screwpile lighthouses, and keno, the year-old lottery game that Gov. William Donald Schaefer's administration has been struggling to promote. "Support Tourism, Play Keno," the outdoor advertisement read.

It seemed an odd coupling of a clean industry and a seedy one, sort of like combining a Cal Ripken milk promotion with one of those insidious inner city liquor billboards.

State tourism officials explained that an outdoor advertising concern donated the use of 700 billboards to the state as long as the government picked up the cost of the materials. Since the lottery agency shelled out $18,000 for the billboard paper, it got to include its message alongside the tourism promotion.

Tourism officials winced when the billboards were pointed out to them, almost as if they hoped no one quite noticed 700 enormous keno-tourism signs spread throughout Maryland. Actually, the episode is a good example of government too often acting as a collection of mini-bureaucracies, each looking out for its own reputation and interests, than as an entity with one broad goal of improving the state.

In the future, though, as the state attempts to build the hospitality industry here, the government should steer clear of odd associations, like that between tourism and the lottery. Otherwise, before you know it, we'll start seeing slogans like "the Land of Pleasant Gambling," or "Reno in Miniature," or "Maryland, You're Beautiful (When Your Number Comes Up.)"

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