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October 31, 2008

Slots in Maryland: Gambling for our Future

J0422537 I recently enjoyed my 15 minutes 2 minutes of fame when I attended the movie theater screening of a new documentary titled "Losing to Win: A Documentary on the Maryland Slots Referendum". Yep, that's me opening the film.

As one of the bluest of the blue states, it is pretty certain that Marylanders will overwhelmingly vote for Barack Obama for President. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it also looks like the majority of my fellow Free Staters will vote to amend our state constitution to allow slots.

Initially the politicians told us we needed slots to save Maryland's horse racing industry.

It's not that I'm against the horse racing industry in Maryland. After all, I pride myself on my ability to read a racing program and bet an exacta. My grandfather was an avid fan of the track and took my cousin Laura and me for the first time when we were 10. Grampa paid our entrance fee and bought us a racing program. My dad funded our pizza and soda for the night. We each had $10 to bet and decided to place all our bets together--with $2 minimum bets that got us at least 10 races, even if we lost every time. I do remember that we walked away with a few bucks in our pockets. Which, considering our strategy, was pretty amazing. You see, there was a jockey named Amy racing that day and we bet on her horse to win every time. I guess Amy did okay that night!

My husband and I try to make it to Laurel or Pimlico at least once each summer and we always invite a group of friends to join us. I have a blast teaching my girlfriends the ropes--generally they've never been to the races before!

So even though I enjoy horse racing and do wish that it were more popular, I don't think we should amend our state constitution to allow slot machine gambling at the race tracks.

But, the money will fund education, right? Well, that's the next thing they told us.

Certainly I'm not against public education! I'd like more funding for our public schools. But I don't think slots are the way to do it. The facts and figures just don't add up. Yes, approximately 50% of the revenues from slots would fund education, at least initially. (The Maryland lottery was initially dedicated to education as well. Now, those revenues go into the general fund.) But, what will the ultimate social costs be? An editorial in The Washington Post states, "researchers estimate that the costs of alcoholism, gambling addiction and bankruptcies resulting from slots could total $228 million to $628 million annually. And, in unsettling economic times, do we want Marylanders diverting dollars from clothes, food and other entertainment -- or savings accounts -- to gambling?" It sounds to me like many public school teachers will end up with more students in their classrooms with difficult home lives for those few extra dollars.

If public education is the priority it should be in Maryland, do we really need to turn to slots to fund it? Is the Maryland horse racing industry really important enough to warrant an amendment to our state constitution?

I hope more Marylanders will join me in voting no on Question 2 this Tuesday.

Original post to DC Metro Moms. Aimee blogs about life at www.smilingmama.blogspot.com.

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