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Editorial - End the sunset in '98

October 07, 1997

After World War II, on a group of Pacific Ocean islands known as Melanesia, the natives began to believe that if they waited long enough, the Allied planes that had brought them a wealth of modern goods would return again. "Cargo cult" members fervently believed, against all evidence, that the good old days would return.

Fifty years later, some local folks are harboring unrealistic hopes that the law that brought accountability to tip-jar gambling in Washington County (and hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities) will disappear. We cannot believe that those charities that have benefitted or the citizens of Washington County will let that happen.

The law that governs tip jars here was filed in the 1995 General Assembly after the Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association threatened to stop gaming operations they ran to benefit local charities. A task force was formed to reconcile club and tavern interests and produce a bill. After a tremendous effort, it was passed. Though not everyone is happy with it, we believe it has worked well.

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At this point, the only thing wrong with the law is a sunset provision that would end those charitable contributions on June 30, 1999, unless lawmakers remove that provision during the 1998 General Assembly session. No one on the county's General Assembly delegation has openly opposed the idea, but state Sen. Don Muson would like to see the sunset extended for five or six more years, so the assembly can periodically review how the law is working.

That's a bad idea, for two reasons. It would ensure that there'll be some sort of political fight over this again in the future, when in fact, this issue has been settled. But extending the sunset also gives the State of Maryland an opening to take over regulation of local gambling.

Sound far-fetched? In the last session, state Sen., Walter Baker, D-Cecil, proposed a bill to give the state control of all gambling. Washington County's best defense against a future state takeover is a strong bill that won't self-destruct in five years. End the sunset in 1998.

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