On Slot Machines In Maryland

READERS SPEAK OUT

October 22, 2008

In previous years, The Baltimore Sun's editorial board has rightly rejected slots. This year, it has endorsed legalized gambling ("Yes on Question 2," Oct. 19).

The editorial argued that making large cuts in spending would be too painful because education and health care are too important to cut, and that raising taxes would be too harmful to the economy. Hence the editors endorse legalized gambling as an economically painless way to raise revenue.

But slot machine gambling would do the same thing that increased taxes would do: transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from the people of Maryland to the government. Playing slots may be more amusing than filling out tax forms, but the end result is still the same. And the impact on the economy would be the same.

The editorial board admits that slots are unfair, regressive, addictive and destructive.

Since legalized gambling offers no economic benefit over regular taxation, a tax increase - as lousy as it would be - is the better option.

David Chipkin, Odenton

The writer is a volunteer for Stop Slots Maryland.

The Baltimore Sun's endorsement of the slots referendum leaves this reader unconvinced.

By the editorial's admission, the newspaper "has consistently opposed gambling as the wrong way to finance government" and gambling is "an unfair and regressive tax on the poor." The editorial also calls slots "highly addictive" and "a destructive influence on communities."

The state of the national economy is then cited as a reason for abandoning the anti-gambling stance the paper has held since 1972 because "these are extraordinary times."

Surely, we have had many difficult times in the past 36 years. But a new fiscal crisis, urgent as it may be, is not a compelling reason for inviting increased gambling into our state.

Maryland has the highest median income of any state in this country.

We have to figure a way to justly share the wealth with all our citizens, not further penalize the weakest among us.

Frances C. Holman, Towson

This is the height of hypocrisy: The Baltimore Sun, which preached for years against slots (on a moral basis), has landed on what is now the Democratic side of this argument, using the economic situation as the rationale.

One can only wonder what the editors would have dreamed up as a basis to support this referendum had the economy not slowed when it did.

Nonetheless, in these trying times, the paper has abandoned its "holier than thou" doctrine to suggest that now that the government is being squeezed by reduced tax revenues, it's OK to encourage all of us (poor folks included) to gamble to prop up tax revenues, even if this runs the risk of encouraging addictive behavior.

This is a joke, and a shameful one at that.

Charlie Black, Towson

I have just received and read the ballot information from the Board of Elections for the coming election that includes the wording for the slots question. After reading The Baltimore Sun's recommendation that we vote yes and the full summary provided by the ballot, I intend to vote no, because Marylanders are not just being asked whether to permit slots. We are being asked to approve a piece of legislation with a laundry list of provisions that should have been put in a revenue bill, not offered as part of the state's constitution. Our legislature could not make up its mind where to have slots. So it would be unfair for all Marylanders to determine and place in the constitution the rule that slots will be in just five jurisdictions.

The question put to Marylanders should have been only whether to permit slots in our state. If this were the sole question before us, I would have no problem voting yes.

But I will not play a role in drafting legislation for the administration of slots, which is what this question's wording represents.

Charles Herr, Baltimore

I was saddened and appalled at the editorial calling for Maryland citizens to support slots. What has happened to The Baltimore Sun's ethical standards?

What would be the lessons for our children if we use gambling to support their education?

Slots are another short-term fix for a long-term problem. There are better solutions to our fiscal challenges.

Morton J. Baum, Baltimore

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