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Editorial - Beware the eager beavers

December 02, 1997

As news stories go, it wasn't very long. Not more than six paragraphs at the most. But the report that moved on Monday's Associated Press wire ought to be a wake-up call to anyone who's concerned about the health of non-profit organizations in Washington County.

The AP story followed a longer one which appeared in the Sunday Herald-Mail, a story which contained the news that $61.3 million was bet on tip jars in Washington County during the 12 month-period which ended in June 1997. The story also noted that the total was $6 million greater than that for the previous year.

Now imagine that you're in Annapolis, working as an official of a state government which has made many promises to many people, promises which will cost money to keep. You're scanning the wire for state news and suddenly a little nugget of news catches your eye. In little old Washington County, they're spending $61.3 million on a form of gambling that involves tearing open little slips of paper - and the state isn't getting a cut of it!

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Am ambitious bureaucrat might mull that over and decide to put together a proposal to have the state regulate the system - for a fee and a cut of the action. Now since we're not mind readers, we don't know who's thinking what, but we believe it's more likely than not that the state will try to horn in.

To preclude that possibility, our state legislators must be ready, with a bill to protect the good things that have happened in the past two years of gambling regulation.

The most important task is removing the legislation's sunset clause. Talking about keeping it is no more than political pandering to those who believe (unrealistically) that the clock can be turned back to the good old days when there was no regulation.

Instead of encouraging that view, state lawmakers need to build the case that unlike Prince George's County, this county has regulated its gambling, and that as a result, many non-profits benefit. To do otherwise would leave the door open for all the eager beavers in Annapolis who'd like to impress their bosses with schemes to siphon off local gambling revenues.

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