Gambling is a menace to society, and make no mistake about it: If slot machine gambling is legalized in Maryland, casinos will soon follow. This would be deadly to the best interest of the moral, social, economic and spiritual life of any community. It is also harmful to good government.
The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore and Vicinity has historically opposed all forms of state-sponsored gambling. We should not allow Maryland to continue to encourage its citizens to engage in pathological, addictive behavior. Therefore, we will aggressively resist any effort to bring slot machines and casino gambling to our state and city.
Such gambling has a devastating effect on communities across America. It creates a younger generation of gamblers and gives rise to payday and predatory lenders, pawnshops, prostitution and a more sophisticated criminal element. With all of the problems we face in Baltimore - a rising murder rate caused by juvenile gangs, the plethora of illegal drug addiction and distribution, the spread of HIV and AIDS, and a failing public school system - the last thing we need is slot machine and casino gambling. We already have too many addicts on our streets.
Some state officials and the gambling industry have deceived us before. Lottery revenues were promised to fund public education and senior citizens, but were not allocated.
In our state, 5 percent of the citizens - usually from the poorest neighborhoods - buy 51 percent of the lottery tickets. There is no surer way to lose the war on poverty than to expand legalized gambling.
Although the state and the local municipalities would share in the revenue from slots, the immediate community would not. The larger portion of the losers' money goes to wealthy owners and bosses. The community suffers the end results of crime, poverty, dysfunction, increased welfare and reduced commercial activity.
Responsible government should not seek to correct its fiscal affairs by targeting the poor to engage in pathological, addictive behavior.
Our alliance offers other viable alternatives as possible solutions to our fiscal problems. We encourage the state to do business with corporations that pay employees a living wage, thus strengthening the tax base. We also encourage the state to consider a higher tax on liquor and tobacco products.
Maryland is one of the richest states in the nation. With Gov. Martin O'Malley seeking to raise the sales tax, we ask him to consider expanding it to include services used by our more-affluent citizens, such as financial services.
Let us solve our fiscal affairs in Maryland through a strong economy where citizens maintain a quality lifestyle in the work force, not by indulging in games of chance. We invite our elected officials and people of goodwill to join us in this effort.
The Rev. Gregory B. Perkins is chairman of a committee on slot machines and casino gambling for the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore and Vicinity.