Indian casino in Cumberland?

February 21, 1995

Gov. Parris N. Glendening may think he has quelled the rush to legalize casino gambling in Maryland, but he'd just be fooling himself.

Since the governor's announcement last week that he would veto any gambling legislation that reaches his desk this year, high-priced influence-peddlers in Annapolis haven't lowered their profiles or halted their efforts to romance the General Assembly into approving casinos. On top of that, a Virginia developer says he will be submitting to the governor within a month plans for a giant Indian-run casino that would employ 2,000 workers on Will's Mountain near Cumberland.

The governor should be commended for finally taking a strong position against gambling's onslaught -- and for recommending a lengthy study of the issues involved in any expansion of state-sanctioned gaming. "I'm not convinced at all that casinos can do anything for the quality of life or economic future of Maryland," the governor said. "I do not see anything that says we should become a center for casinos."

Additionally, the governor noted that casino owners were driving the process, not Marylanders. As he put it, "We ought not let those seeking the profits . . . and who don't have an investment in Maryland set our policies."

A blue-ribbon study commission is very much in order. When this group is formed, the governor should make sure that it does not contain gambling enthusiasts (especially legislators or potential investors) whose minds are already made up. Hard questions need to be addressed on the impact of casinos on this state's horse-racing industry, on its restaurant and hotel industry, on its tourism industry and how these gambling parlors would affect crime and the surrounding communities.

As for the threat of an Indian-run casino in Western Maryland, the governor should flatly reject this shameful opportunism. James Silvester of Winchester, Va., wants to use the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act as a pretext for building a casino near Cumberland. Rejection by Mr. Glendening, though, would put a quick end to this fast-buck scheme.

The speed with which casino interests have tried to rush into Maryland illustrates the dangers inherent in opening the doors wider to gambling. Simply by holding out the lure of big financial windfalls for state and local governments, casino operators hope to shatter any opposition in Annapolis. That's an insult to our elected leaders and to our citizens.

Governor Glendening should hold firm to his veto threat and give this issue the kind of comprehensive scrutiny it requires.

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