Eliminating the gamble

May 17, 2002

GOV. PARRIS N. Glendening's veto of a bill that might have allowed casino gambling in Maryland shows again that good politics can be good government.

His action helps keep this state casino-free and avoids undermining the credibility of recently stated opposition from Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is running to succeed him. Both have vociferously opposed more gambling in the state.

The bill Mr. Glendening vetoed was designed to accelerate the process by which Native Americans seek tribal recognition. With that recognition, tribes can move to acquire authority for gambling as they have in other states.

"The specter of expanded gambling opportunities in Maryland continues to loom over this issue," Mr. Glendening said in a letter to House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. explaining his veto. "There is a general perception that the push for these bills is about bringing slots to Maryland."

Perception can be reality. The legislation was prompted by the Piscataway-Conoy Confederacy, which received financial backing from gambling interests.

Even if the perception was wrong, Mr. Glendening had little choice.

To have left the door open even a little would have undermined his administration's opposition.

Even before she announced her campaign for governor officially, Mrs. Townsend said she opposed slot machine gambling - a position widely popular among the politically influential African-American churches. Any suggestion that Mr. Glendening had left an opening for casinos would have given his second in command considerable explaining to do.

The governor wanted to honor the Native American drive for recognition and access to benefits granted to Indians who can establish their legitimacy. Some other means for addressing those concerns may be found, but the potential price carried by this bill - casino gambling - was too great and impossible to ignore.

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