'Riverboat Rambo' leads rally against casinos

September 08, 1995|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

About 200 people opposed to casino and riverboat gambling in Maryland attended a "No Casino Rally" last night at a Glen Burnie church.

"There is already enough and more than enough gambling opportunities in Maryland," the Rev. R. Olin Herndon, pastor of Glen Burnie United Methodist Church, told those at the rally. "We are here to join the chorus sounding across the state saying, 'No Casino.' "

The Rev. Tom A. Grey of Galena, Ill., a spokesman for the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling who has been dubbed "Riverboat Rambo" by gambling proponents, was the guest speaker at the rally.

Mr. Grey, who travels around the country speaking against the expansion of gambling, told residents and legislators that Maryland is not alone in its opposition to casino gambling.

The fight against casino gambling is being waged across the country and at the ballot box, Mr. Grey told those who attended the rally at the Glen Burnie United Methodist Church Hall at Crain Highway and Second Avenue S.E.

Casino proponents "can't beat us with that kind of army," he said.

The rally was sponsored by Maryland's Religious Community Opposed to Casino Gambling, a broad-based interfaith group. The rally reflected the grass-roots opposition against casino gambling that has developed across Maryland over the last few months as the 1996 General Assembly session approaches.

Mr. Grey told the crowd that it was involved in "a street fight" against gambling proponents and "not a church picnic."

"The ballot box, it's what they fear. They cringe when you talk about taking it to the ballot box," he said.

Casino gambling has emerged as a major issue in Maryland during the past year and gaming firms have hired many of Annapolis' top lobbyists in hopes of passing legislation during the General Assembly that begins in January. The push here is part of a recent national trend in which states have approved casino gambling in exchange for jobs and hefty taxes on revenues.

A nine-member gambling task force appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and legislators is studying such issues as the potential effects of casino gambling on various Maryland industries, including horse racing, hotels, restaurants, agriculture and tourism.

The task force has been holding public hearings across the state to allow residents to express their views on the issue and is expected to complete its report by December.

"I am personally against casino gambling because it destroys the lives of people through addiction," said Beth McCracken Harness, who co-pastors the Community Church of God in Glen Burnie with her husband, H. David Harness.

Casinos offer "empty promises," Mr. Harness said.

Last night, rally organizers handed out fliers, listing future meetings and hearings and ways in which anti-gambling forces can help, such as by circulating petitions.

"Let's go out and win this, not in the sanctuary but in the streets," Mr. Grey told the crowd.

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