When I returned to Maryland recently after a wonderful two-week family vacation, I was appalled by the continuing misrepresentation of my position on the issue of casino gambling and slot machines. Make no mistake, these topics are - and always will be - inexorably linked.
Over the past two decades, throughout my entire career as an elected official, I have consistently and forcefully voiced my strong opposition to all forms of casino gambling. I have done so because the lures of "a quick buck" or a "lucky bet" run completely contrary to the core values that my father taught me and that I believe in today, namely hard work and a good education.
I fought for years as Prince George's County executive to shut casinos down in my home county, and that same theme continued throughout my successful gubernatorial campaign.
So imagine my amazement when I read the many newspaper articles, editorials and opinion columns which attempted to rewrite my position on casino gambling and slot machines. Let me set the record straight: I am personally outraged by the gambling lobby's attempts to tie gambling to education funding. It is absolutely shameful to hold our children hostage to casinos and slots. I cannot and will not allow this.
Education remains my No. 1 priority. We have strengthened programs and increased funding for schools throughout the state. I believe we also must do more for those poor children in Baltimore City and other jurisdictions who need an extra boost to help them compete academically on a level playing field with students in wealthier areas of the state. We will continue to fund improvements to education by making tough budget decisions and setting clear priorities.
Therefore, I will not introduce legislation to allow the expansion of casino gambling or slot machines in Maryland. I will not support any casino or slot legislation introduced by others. No bill that authorizes slot machines or casinos will pass my desk.
Yes, this is a hardening of my previously held position. I opposed efforts during the 1996 General Assembly session that would have expanded casino gambling and slot machines in the state.
Over the past six or seven months, I tried to leave the door open slightly for slot machines because of concerns expressed to me about the impact that slot machines in Delaware could have on Maryland's racing industry. Concerns were voiced that wonderful racing traditions such as the Preakness could leave our state if our tracks were nearing complete collapse.
Leaving that option open was misinterpreted as support for slot machines. And now I believe the so-called "cure" is actually worse than the disease.
The aggressiveness of the casino interests during my two-week absence has made it clear to me that they will stop at nothing to bring casinos into our state. So I am closing the door on that option once and for all.
We are not turning our back on Maryland's horse racing industry or the Preakness. We will continue to work closely with the General Assembly and all concerned parties to find strategies to help the horse racing industry survive and prosper.
But the Preakness should not be used as an excuse to bring casinos or slot machines into our state. It cannot be a "back door" to find a way to allow slot machines at the racetrack today and full-fledged casinos throughout the state tomorrow.
On Aug. 12, the same day that I announced my decision not to allow any casino or slot machine legislation to pass my desk, I traveled to Frederick to participate in an exciting announcement. MedImmune Inc., a fast-growing biotechnology firm with offices in Montgomery County, revealed that it will build a major new headquarters in Frederick and expand its existing facility in Montgomery. MedImmune's decision will mean 400 jobs - with an average salary of $60,000 - for that region of the state.
That announcement came after a solid year of hard work that RTC crossed jurisdictional lines in a spirit of regional cooperation and partnership. While some may consider it a risk to invest so heavily in a firm that has yet to prove itself in a highly competitive biotechnology field, it is a far lesser risk than anything we might hope to gain by gambling away the state's future with casinos or slot machines.
The MedImmune announcement followed reports that Maryland's unemployment rate is continuing to decline, while the number of jobs across the state is at an all-time high. Additionally, we are beginning to overtake neighboring states such as Virginia in our head-to-head battles for jobs. In fact, we were able to attract MedImmune to Frederick County despite intense competition from Ohio.
That the MedImmune announcement occurred on the same day as my statement on casinos and slots is symbolic to me. It demonstrates that we will be successful in moving Maryland forward by creating good-paying, family-supporting jobs and by stimulating future job growth through well-planned, reasonable strategies - not by "quick-fix" solutions that create more problems than they solve.
Pub Date: 8/25/96