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Editorial: The gambling issue

June 19, 1998

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, who kicked off his campaign for re-election this week, may be the luckiest candidate in recent history. Though opponents have mentioned a variety of issues that call his judgment and character into question - the lucrative pension deal he got after leaving the Prince George's County Executive's post, some questionable fund-raising practices and the hiring of some former county colleagues at big state salaries - his foes have chosen to focus instead on the issue where he's strongest - slot-machine gambling.

Democrat Eileen Rehrmann said this week that if elected, she'll add slot machines at the state's race tracks, adding $100 million a year in state revenues and 2,000 new school teachers by the year 2000. That position is echoed by other Democratic candidates, including Ray Schoenke, a former Washington Redskins player and now a millionaire businessman and Terry McGuire, an Anne Arundel County physician.

Ellen Sauerbrey, Glendening's opponent last time and the front-running Republican this time, favors allowing those who live near race tracks to vote on whether they want slot machines there, but her lone GOP opponent, Charles Ecker, opposes any additional gambling.

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For us, gambling is a non-issue. We have plenty of it now, in the form of the state lottery and local tip jars, which produce a wealth of donations for area charities. Adding more would not only dilute the pool of available revenue, it would also create the potential for a whole new group of gambling addicts. There are only so many horse races each night the track is open, and when they're over, the players go home to consider what they've won or lost. Slot machines never sleep.

We also agree with Glendening that unlike manufacturing and software-development firms, gambling doesn't produce anything, or create wealth.

To do that, Maryland citizens have to invest in the future. If more teachers are part of that investment, taxpayers should hire them, and stopping kidding themselves into believing that gambling is a painless way to solve the state's problems.

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