Maryland's interstate casino Cecil Co. venture: Plan for I-95 slots complex lacks crucial element -- local support.

August 06, 1996

HERE WE GO again. Another casino firm wants to build a $100 million complex in Maryland filled with slot machines and gambling devices, ostensibly to help our poor, belabored politicians fix schools, fortify the racing industry and find the money for election-year tax cuts. There's only one problem: The casino executives forgot to ask folks in Cecil County if they want a huge gambling parlor in their neighborhood.

So far, the results are loud and clear. Cecil County officials fTC despise the notion of a slots emporium along Interstate 95. The jurisdiction is doing quite well, thank you, as a rural county attracting new residents who commute to work in nearby Delaware or suburban Baltimore. No one in the county pushed for a casino; the idea was hatched by lobbyists hungry for new clients and casinos voracious for bigger profits.

The same thing occurred last year in Cumberland and Cambridge. The idea is to promise big investments and hundreds of jobs in exchange for legalizing electronic gambling, knowing other casino games might come later.

It is the industry's classic pitch. Let us in and your troubles will be over. But the public isn't buying. "There is no popular movement in America agitating for more gambling," wrote Robert Goodman, an authority on the subject. His research "did not uncover a single grass-roots organization lobbying for more opportunities to gamble." Two years ago, seven states voted on casinos. Gambling lost, 7-0.

So the plan by Casino America for a large entertainment and gambling facility in Elkton is a transparent attempt to buy the support of Cecil countians and politicians. State residents, of course, will get priority for those 500 jobs. That concert hall will, of course, provide top-flight entertainment for Marylanders. And the money raised from gambling will actually come from interstate travelers just passing by, not Marylanders. There's enough hot air here to fill several high-altitude balloons.

Slot-machine gambling will not revive our racing industry, attract businesses, improve schools or balance budgets. It is a pipe dream promoted by self-interested gambling corporations and their lobbyists. State lawmakers and local public officials who have firm moral convictions should stand up against this proposal, and others like it. Maryland is not for sale.

Pub Date: 8/06/96

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