Gambling impact seen as positiveI read with interest...

LETTERS

October 30, 1995

Gambling impact seen as positive

I read with interest Maryland Attorney General Joe Curran's recent comments in The Sun, expressing concern over the legalization of casino gambling.

I know Mr. Curran and am convinced that he has his constituents' best interests at heart. But as a former attorney general of Nevada, a state with considerable experience in gaming, I feel I must respond.

Gaming in America today has provided countless benefits to the communities where it is legal and properly implemented and regulated. It has created thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of tax revenues for state, county and municipal coffers throughout the United States. In addition, jobs in the gaming industry have taken people off welfare and given them back their self-respect.

But jobs and prosperity are not the only benefits of legalized gaming.

Data collected by the Massachusetts Senate committee on post-audit and oversight from the Department of Justice, the FBI and local law enforcement agencies indicate that crime rates have either declined or remained stable following the introduction of casino gaming into a city.

Perhaps the most dramatic example of crime's impact in the context of casino gaming can be seen when comparing the towns of Atlantic City, N.J., and Florida's well-known family destination resort, Orlando.

From 1970 through 1990, total crime in Orlando increased by 335 percent, while total crime in Atlantic City rose by 15 percent. Interestingly, when increases in population and visitor volume are taken into account, the chances of becoming a crime victim have actually declined in Atlantic City since the first casino opened its doors.

Far from being a drain on society, well-planned and strictly regulated gaming facilities have proven to be beneficial to many com- munities in terms of job creation, overall economic development -- and public safety. The vast increase in criminal behavior predicted by gaming's detractors has simply not occurred.

As all attorneys general know, you can't legislate morality. But what you can legislate is a well-regulated gaming industry. It has proven successful in other states with legalized gambling and I trust it will work for Maryland as well.

Brian McKay

Reno, Nevada

The writer is a vice president and general counsel of International Game Technology.

Odds are casinos won't help us

I was dismayed to read that Michael Olesker believes the benefits of casinos are worth the gamble. Mr. Olesker seems to be in awe of the emperor's new clothes.

Interestingly, Mr. Olesker raised the specter of Atlantic City with its glittering casinos and deteriorated surroundings. Yet he apparently fails to understand fully the significance of those surroundings.

Where are all the new businesses that are being attracted to Atlantic City because of the casinos? They do not exist. All the "new jobs" are collected in the casinos themselves. How many prospective employers will list casinos as a plus when seeking to relocate? Those employers do not exist, either.

Maryland is trying desperately to redefine its business identity in the wake of federal cutbacks so that it can join the rest of the nation in emerging from the recession. Please do not handicap this process by giving Maryland yet another black mark for attracting new jobs. Instead, let's urge our business and government leaders to marshal responsibly our many and diverse resources toward a healthy and vibrant Maryland economy.

Michael W. Davis

Columbia

Future adults may not get that far

As Sara Engram noted in her Oct. 15 column, "The stressed-out life starts early," children and adolescents too often grow up in distressed families and communities, without the support and guidance of parents and other adults who can help them develop the skills they need to survive.

The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development recently released its final report, which presents sobering statistics about the health and well-being of our youngest adolescents, those 10-14 years of age. . . .

The Carnegie findings mirror our own data that were recently published in "The Health of Maryland's Adolescents."

Homicide is now the second leading cause of death for 10- to 19-year-olds in Maryland. Cigarette smoking rates have increased among sixth, eighth and 10th grade students in recent years. Rates of alcohol, marijuana and inhalant use are all on the rise, as are gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Both reports sound an alarm about the health of our future parents, workers, citizens and leaders. How will we answer the call?

A next step . . . would be to convene a state council on adolescent health to formulate policies and programs for young people and to identify resources that might assist local communities in their own strategic planning for youths.

Cheryl Alexander

Baltimore

The writer is a researcher at the Center for Adolescent Health, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.

Racial hatred produces strife

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