Volume XI, Issue 9 ~ February 27- March 5, 2003

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Gambler’s Eponymous:
Cruel Old Draco versus Dr. Faust

Unless you’ve been encased in a glacier for a long while (oh, you have?), you know that gambling soon will be arriving in Maryland.

Bet on it.

It is being hastened by today’s war-retarded economy that has public officials howling about budget woes. State government bean-counters say way less cash is coming into Maryland.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens is talking about “Draconian cuts” that will be forcing her to decide between more pay for county workers or less road maintenance and fewer services to us.

She told the General Assembly that instead of $10 million less in state aid, next year it could be $30 million unless there’s a fast flow of new money — like gambling proceeds.

The gambling bus is hurtling toward us, and we’re not inclined to stand in the road talking about ethics or sin.

But despite the haste to pass a gambling bill by April, we do believe the state has a moral obligation to consider the damage we are about to inflict on ourselves.

We shouldn’t do what Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s spokesman Paul Schurick did last week when he shrugged off new research noting that low-income and minority citizens bear the brunt of gambling’s ills. Schurick — whose judgment we’ve otherwise found sound — spoke dismissively of lots of gambling studies floating around, often conflicting with one another.

The study by researchers from two New York universities concluded that minorities are three times more likely to develop problems with compulsive gambling than non-minorities.

The report found that problem gambling has advanced deeply into minority neighborhoods during the spread of casino-type gambling over the last 25 years.

If this is in fact what happens, then Maryland ought to sit up and pay attention. Several of the racetracks lined up to get slots are situated near low-income or African American communities.

One issue is how big of a stack of chips we should set aside to treat gambling addiction, which is a sorry thing. Ask House Speaker Michael Busch, who watched his father’s loss to gambling.

Schurick observed that Ehrlich wants to spend $500,000 yearly to help gambling addicts. Is this enough, considering that billions will be floating around?

We’ve heard several officials now warning us of “Draconian” cuts. We think that while we’re referring to Draco — a lawmaker so harsh his reputation has endured over three millennia — we ought once in a while to refer to Dr. Faust, the fictional philosopher who bargained his soul to the devil.

Once we open the door to gambling, it’s here to stay. If we’re going to jump into this bargain, which looks likely, then we ought at least be prepared for what comes next — including helping those on whom gambling inflicts a hellish existence.



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Last updated February 27, 2003 @ 2:13am