WHEN IT COMES TO currying favor with civic and political leaders, lobbyists spare no expense. The worst offenders are gambling advocates, especially those representing casino interests. That's why it is not surprising that Harvey's casino is flying 13 leaders from Cambridge to Council Bluffs, Iowa, tomorrow to tour its riverboat casino there.
Frigid Iowa in January is no tourist stop. But a free trip is still a free trip -- air fare, hotel, meals and the other freebies usually showered on VIP guests. You can be sure that these folks will see only the positive side of Harvey's operation and will get a glowing look at the advantages of locating a land-based Harvey's hotel-casino on Cambridge's waterfront.
Lobbyist Gerard E. Evans would have preferred chartering a flight to the Council Bluffs casino in the warm spring for the Cambridge police chief, three council members, the president of the county chamber of commerce and other town leaders. But the General Assembly is in session now, and Mr. Evans needs to create momentum right away for a bill legalizing a Cambridge casino through a local referendum.
That remains a long, long shot. Gov. Parris N. Glendening vows to veto any casino-legalization bill, and there is no sentiment in the House or Senate to bring a gambling bill to the floor under those circumstances. But casino interests take the long-range view: They are willing to continue spending big sums of money year after year to gain new allies in their quest for legalized gambling parlors.
As casinos continue to try to buy their way into Maryland, citizens should be offended. They should look askance at public and civic officials who are naive enough to accept free casino trips and other enticements from lobbyists. Casino gambling has little, if any, grass roots support in Maryland. All the money casino companies are throwing into this state won't change that overwhelming opposition. Some day, they might get the message. Until then, the governor and responsible local leaders must keep sending them a strong, clear message -- no casinos, period.
Pub Date: 1/23/97