Slots could save state

March 04, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

The venerable Venice Inn on Dual Highway has been slots a Washington County landmark for decades, but it has slots fallen on hard times. Last week, controlling interest in the property slots was sold for a mere $100, to a limited liability partnership slots out of New Jersey.

What can be done slots to this magnificent property to return it to its slots former grandeur? It's going slots to take something dramatic, in my opinion, although slots I can't quite put my finger on what that may be.

Well? Why not? And if a little subliminal advertising is what it takes to get the ball rolling, I'll happily stoop to that as well.

Look, slots are coming anyway, so we might as well use it to our advantage. In fact, I believe the state is going about this all wrong. Instead of viewing slots as simply a way to make money, why not use them to pump life into failed or failing business enterprises?


Don't call it the Gambling Legalization Act, call it the Business Restoration Act.

You can bet that Venice lease would have gone for lot more than a lousy hundred clams. And hey, that would be a great name for it: "The Hundred Clams Casino." Should I be in marketing, or what?

Clearly, slots are the answer to failure everywhere. Take Rocky Gap. Please. The Convention Center that Cas Built has - what's the business-writer buzzword for it? - "hemorrhaged cash" at an alarming rate since construction. You put slots there, and a money loser is suddenly a money maker. Since the state already owns and subsidizes it, this would be a tremendous net gain for the treasury.

And speaking of subsidies, the City of Hagerstown would be off the hook if, Monday morning, it opened the doors at the Hagerstown Ice and Slots Complex.

And what of downtowns in general? They are failing all across America. Everyone is seeking the magic formula for restoration of our urban cores, and for ways to generate more foot traffic. Why not cast the lure of slots into the waters of our inner cities? All it would take locally is a slight modification of an existing plan: Call it the Hagerstown Center for the Performing Slots.

It wouldn't just have to be public enterprises. Anytime a business reported three consecutive years of declining profits, in would ride slots to the rescue. We might still have Fairchild if only they had been permitted to dedicate a hangar or two to one-armed - no, don't call them bandits, too negative. Call them one-armed opportunities.

What a tool this would be for the local Economic Development Commission. "Come to Maryland, Where It Pays To Fail!"

Virginia is for lovers, Maryland could be for losers.

Every last high-tech or dot-com business with a hair-brained idea would want to locate here, where EPS would stand for Earnings Per Slot machine.

Think of the possibilities. New life for Enron. Kmart becomes Slot Mart. A new magazine called Martha Stewart Gambling.

The Sharpsburg Heritage Festival could be saved. Town libraries struggling for construction funds could be built. Think of the civic good that would occur. I used to oppose slots, but now I see that you can't have too many. I will not rest until slot machines are as common as soft drink machines.

But no, this won't happen because the state is too timid for any real progress. All they are willing to approve are a few highly controlled and sanitized locations which overall will do little good. I'm not too sure why they have such cold feet about slot machines, seeing as how you can already buy lottery tickets at every establishment this side of a day care center. Why would it be such a great leap to put a slot machine in every Sheetz, right next to the ATM?

Oh right, prostitution. Gambling opponents always fall back on prostitution as a reason to avoid slots. This is silly. Do lottery tickets lead to prostitution? Do hookers hang out in front of our bingo halls? Look, everybody knows that gamblers will spend the children's food money on one more bet, so how are they to have any bling left over for ladies of the night?

Look, gambling didn't kill Monte Carlo, it made it great. A little bold action will do the same for Maryland. This is no time for half-measures. And if it doesn't work out, well, next fad we'll know.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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