Should state rely on slots?


February 01, 2003

I have grown increasingly frustrated with recent efforts by several Maryland lawmakers to prohibit slot machines at the Maryland racetracks.

The slots initiative is essential for Maryland to remain competitive in the racing industry; without it, the industry will continue to lose revenues to West Virginia, Delaware and most likely Pennsylvania, which could pass legislation allowing slots this year.

If the current trend persists, and the Maryland racing industry continues to lose horses, owners, breeders and trainers to its neighbors, the existing tax revenues the state receives will deteriorate and perhaps disappear.

Furthermore, slots would enable the state to work toward balancing the budget without raising taxes or cutting services. And although there are many ways to balance the budget, those who oppose slots are naive if they think our first Republican governor in more than 30 years will raise taxes before cutting jobs and programs.

Those who believe slots will reduce the income the state receives from the lottery are not taking into consideration Maryland's opportunity for revenue growth from Maryland gamblers currently taking their money to Delaware and West Virginia.

Additionally, both Pimlico and Laurel racetracks, being well-located in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, are aptly positioned to draw business from the neighboring markets of Washington, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., and New York.

Slots may even jump-start the long-awaited (and needed) revitalization of the Route 1 corridor and the neighborhoods near Pimlico Race Course.

And if the argument against slot machines at the Maryland tracks stems from a moral conviction against slot machine gambling, consider how many Marylanders play the lottery and Keno.

Charles C. Fenwick III


Del. Howard P. Rawlings never ceases to amaze me. He opens up a Pandora's Box by introducing slots legislation and now he's the champion of fairness ("Rawlings' slots plan offers less to racing," Jan. 15).

He wants "women and minorities" to get a piece of the action, he wants a chunk of the "take" to go to a compulsive gambling fund and he wants to restrict the "sleaze" factor to only four racetracks.

But I would like to know what's fair about supporting a "mega-casino" at Pimlico Race Course, which is in the middle of an urban, residential community. Do Mr. Rawlings, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. or other elected officials really care about the impact of legalized gambling on the surrounding neighborhoods, which include a large number of working families?

Casinos are predatory against established communities. They result in lowered property values and increased crime, grime, traffic, pollution and addiction. And the tax dollars produced by slots are tax dollars lost to increased community service needs.

When communities feel threatened or insecure, they lose their viability. And healthy neighborhoods are the lifeblood of this city.

We are willing to get to know our new governor, who can lay down $1,500 at "craps" and then call it a day ("A rush to return legislators' favor," Jan. 14).

But we need respect as well. And we don't want anyone gambling with our community.

Marcia Kargon


I have evidently missed something in the debate over slots in Maryland. I keep reading that they will lead thousands of Marylanders into impoverishment and destitution while others become richer.

I haven't seen a draft of the proposed law yet, but evidently it will contain something that forces a certain income class to feed their hard-earned wages to the machines. Or will there be a Pied Piper of Pimlico whom lower-income earners will be unable to resist?

In fact, playing slots will be as much a matter of choice as any other expenditure, regardless of a person's income class.

And I wonder, what would hurt lower-income persons more - slots or an increase in the sales tax to 6 percent?

Dean Wood


Politicians with courage would raise taxes and cut programs rather than inflict slot machines on Maryland. But since they lack this courage, they should have the wisdom to keep the slots away from the horse racing industry.

State-run slots or highest bidder leases would bring more money to the state and not throw away money to prop up a dying, useless and undeserving industry.

Ralph W. Geuder

Ellicott City

I may be one of the few people who actually saw what Delaware Park and the Charles Town racetrack looked like before they had slots. The facilities were in great disrepair. Delaware Park was in worse condition than the track in Timonium, and Charles Town looked like a large, dirty warehouse. The horses that ran on those tracks were basically the animals that couldn't win anywhere else, horses likely to be sent to slaughter soon.

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