Letter: Expanded gambling in Maryland should be put on hold

A letter to Governor O'Malley:

When you first assumed office, you made it clear that you favored bringing slot gambling back to Maryland as a way to raise revenue for the state. Many citizens were against legalizing this exploitive activity which has historically been associated with crime. Yet when the General Assembly refused to go on record as being for or against the measure, it went to referendum as Question 2 on the ballot in 2008 and passed. Then many individuals in Anne Arundel County voted for the measure, assuming that a slot casino would not really affect them and that it might keep taxes lower, an idea which you and others strongly promoted. Ironically, when David Cordish submitted his company's bid to build the casino at Arundel Mills mall, many of those same citizens who voted for Question 2 cried "foul," and with strong financial backing from the Jockey Club, launched a petition drive to "Stop Slots at Mall" since they did not want a casino near their homes after all. This was after months of partisan debate and hedging in the Anne Arundel County Council. You also claimed you preferred the casino for the racetrack during the heated back-and forth- over Question A at the time.

Well, that is almost ancient history, and now four years later, largest casino in Maryland, with its 4,750 slot machines and located in Anne Arundel County, as stipulated in Question 2, is newly open at Arundel Mills. Yet before the first coins were injected into the first "video terminal" there, Mike Miller and pro-gambling interests began lobbying for a slots and table games facility inPrince George's County, possibly at National Harbor. Sen. Miller was even willing to derail the last legislative session over it.

Governor, it's time to show some consistency and leadership on this issue. Remember how you promised that casino gambling would be limited to the locations on the ballot in 2008? Remember how you told the then county executive thatPrince George's County, with its higher crime rate in some areas, would be spared having one of those gambling facilities?

Let's be fair and weigh the outcome of the Arundel Mills casino before we offer up the rest of the state to gambling interests. We can't build another casino every time there is an economic downturn. Let's put a hold on expanded gambling in Maryland and focus, instead, on other important issues.

Marjorie Schulenburg


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