New push for casinos Prince George's gambling: Backers of 'charity' games try to tie casinos to revenue bills.

February 15, 1997

YOU'VE GOT TO ADMIRE the "never give up" attitude of gambling supporters in Maryland. If only their iron-willed determination could be transformed into something positive for the state and its citizens! Instead, they are now pushing hard to win legislative support to continue the scandal-ridden "charity" casinos operating twice a week in Prince George's County.

P.G. lawmakers want to tie a bill allowing the continuation of these 16 casinos to crucial revenue bills proposed by County Executive Wayne K. Curry. It is an old political trick, but so transparent that nobody is falling for this blatant attempt at legislative blackmail. Instead, Mr. Curry is working hard to quash this plan and Gov. Parris N. Glendening has reiterated his stand to veto any bill that would extend the life of the Prince George's casinos beyond May 27.

The sooner the lights are turned out on these casinos, the better. They present golden opportunities for fraud and corruption. The latest is an indictment of an official of the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department and his wife for stealing more than $300,000 from that charitable casino.

Gambling proponents point to the millions in charitable donations flowing from these games of chance. They point to the $19 million in new fire and safety equipment paid for through casino proceeds. They note the $5 million in local taxes paid by these casinos. But they don't mention the string of investigations and indictments, the impoverishment of some regulars who have become addicted to gambling, the lack of Las Vegas-style monitoring of floor activities or the corrosive influence casinos have on a community.

Despite the pleas of casino backers, lawmakers from outside Prince George's County should hold firm: No extension for these casinos. Volunteer fire companies, Jaycees and boys' and girls' clubs there will have to turn to other, more wholesome fund-raising avenues. That's the way their colleagues do it -- and successfully, too -- in other counties.

Pub Date: 2/15/97

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