Slot machines would banish tradition from fairgrounds

November 02, 2003|By DAN RODRICKS

NOW THEY want to ruin the Maryland State Fairgrounds with thousands of slot machines. The worst part is, they want to scrap the annual events -- your bass show, your recreational-type vehicle show, your model-train show, your gem-and-jewelry show -- and go with a year-round, smoke-filled hall of degenerate gamblers who will sit on stools in stretch pants, slip coins into slot machines all day, then panhandle for change on York Road.

Good morning, Timonium!

"I think that the community and Baltimore County can benefit from having a [slots] operation here," said Howard M. "Max" Mosner Jr., president of the nonprofit Maryland State Fair.

Good goin', Howard.

To create space and adequate parking for the big gambling den, Howard wants to do away with the craft shows, a bold stab at the heart of regional tradition, consumer entertainment and commercial expositions.

Has anybody thought about the consequences of that?

It means the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society, for one, will have to find another place for its convention of guys who make and play pretend with those incredible little dragoons and hussars.

It means no dog show, no cat show, no reptile show, no silly rabbit show.

This could be -- God forbid -- the end of the Buddy Deane Fan Fair at the fairgrounds!

No more Ham & Computer Fest, the only exposition of its kind in America. (Where else can you examine the latest Dell while snacking on the latest Kunzler?)

It means neither antique nor modern gun show. Undercover ATF agents will no longer be able to go out there and spy on those big, ruddy guys who get all misty-eyed at the prospect of owning an AK-47.

Instead of real men drooling over side arms, you'll see pale, red-eyed losers wrestling with one-armed bandits. Which tableau would you prefer?

The annual Timonium shows are traditions around here. You're talking generations of male bonding. You're talking about cabin-fever dreams and fanciful window-shopping for those of us stuck in the Baltimore area for the winter.

You'll no longer see, on January weekend mornings, Bill Burton showing little kids how to cast with the newest Daiwa reel, or hear Lefty Kreh telling corny jokes while tying saltwater flies for a crowd eager for spring.

It's goodbye, Bass Expo.

It's goodbye, Senior Expo, and thousands of men and women in those big, wraparound sunglasses.

Goodbye, Women's Show! No more Tupperware demonstrations, no more beauty tips, and farewell to the fast-talking, traveling salesman standing behind a counter slicing and dicing carrots with the latest Saladmaster.

It means grown men will no longer be able to slip out of the house, drive to Timonium, sit behind the wheel of a luxurious RV and dream of the day when they, too, might be able to hit the open road in a 40-foot, $325,000 Beaver Marquis mobile home.

You're talking about replacing the stuff of dreams with a creepy, state-sponsored gambling operation.

And why?

Because Delaware has it.

What is this jones everyone around here seems to have for Delaware?

Why do we want to imitate one of the most obnoxious little states in the country?

Delaware calls itself the First State.

First in annoying.

It's puny and ugly, full of chemicals, charter home of shady Enron subsidiaries, a tax refuge for credit card companies, a haven for foreign-money launderers, and it costs motorists an arm and a leg in tolls just to drive through it.

What do they have -- besides the Punkin Chunkin contest -- to brag about in Delaware?

Slots.

They have slots in three places, including their state fair in Harrington, and this is given as another reason why we should have slots at ours.

Back in March, William Marlow, a 25-year board member of the Maryland State Fair, told the General Assembly: "A visit to the Delaware State Fair will astound you with the benefits the revenue stream from slot machines can bestow upon what was once a small country fair."

OK, great. You can play slots all year in Harrington now -- where, before, you could only gamble on trotters during a limited number of days.

Wonderful. Slots rule in Harrington. Maybe Mr. Marlow should move there if he likes it so much.

Others in Maryland, who remain opposed to slots, think this expansion of gambling is the wrong way to grow the local economy and transform communities. It's just a cheap trick.

I'd rather spend my money on bass lures and carrot dicers.

And if the Maryland State Fair is experiencing hard times, despite all the shows and activities and the thousands of people who pass through its gates all year long -- and not just during the "11 best days of summer" -- then maybe it's time for new management.

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