Slots aren't good - but if we must play, here's how to do it

March 05, 2005|by Russell Williams

Maryland is now considering allowing slot machine gambling. The Maryland lottery has taught us that if we allow slot machine gambling, we will begin to encourage people to use the slot machines.

About one year ago, here in Washington County, we had an example of one result of slot machine gambling. An addiction to slot machine gambling ruined a man's life both before and after he was convicted of using other people's money to feed his addiction.

The argument is made that the state must allow slot machine gambling in order to raise more tax money. The state makes a lot of money by taxing cigarettes, but Maryland does not encourage people to smoke more, and thus pay more taxes.

The state of Maryland makes a lot of money by taxing alcohol, but Maryland does not encourage people to drink more and thus pay more taxes. Maryland already has a lottery and encourages people to play it and thus behave in a financially irresponsible manner.


Now we seem to be preparing to encourage people to be financially irresponsible by using slot machines. Packs of cigarettes have ads on them telling of the dangers of smoking. Alcohol carries warning labels. The ads for Maryland lotteries do not include the information that, for most gamblers, the more money people gamble, the more money they will lose.

Slot machine gambling will further encourage financially irresponsible activities. It is one thing for the state to allow irresponsible activities. It is quite another for the state to encourage people to do them. There are no slogans that say "smoke for students" or "drink for day care," but we do hear of "slots for tots."

If it is determined that Maryland must have slot machines, then Maryland could provide the highest possible payback for Maryland slots.

If the state of Maryland does not take a cut from slot machines, but rather uses money that might be collected in taxes to provide a higher rate of return than gamblers from other locations, they will be attracted to Maryland with its higher rate of return and patronize Maryland hotels and restaurants whose services are taxed.

If we must have slot machines, the slot machine establishments could be run by the Maryland government and used as a means to train out-of-work people in the basic skills necessary to hold a job.

Unemployed single parents could be given first choice of the jobs, and the slot machine establishments could provide day care services and after-work classes that help unemployed single parents improve their job skills.

Such a plan would put more children in safe day care situations and provide more trained workers with which to attract businesses to Maryland and, by preparing people for higher paying jobs, increase the tax revenues of Maryland.

In summary:

· Gambling is a financially irresponsible activity and should not be sanctioned by the state.

· If there must be gambling, since encouraging gambling is encouraging people to be financially irresponsible, the state should never encourage people to gamble.

· If there must be ads promoting gambling, any ads promoting gambling should warn people that it is financially irresponsible behavior.

· If slot machine gambling is allowed, it should provide the highest possible payback to the gamblers while at the same time being used as a vehicle to improve the job skills of unemployed single parents.

Russell Williams, while a member of many organizations, including the School Board, Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP and a local Methodist Church, is not speaking for any of them.

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