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More gambling? Not this kind

January 31, 2006

Maryland, which is already at least a furlong behind West Virginia when it comes to putting slot machines at horse tracks, now has another gambling issue in common with the Mountain State.

It's video games such as electronic poker, which West Virginia legalized to fund its PROMISE scholarship program.

Before they were legalized, thousands of the so-called "gray machines" were operated all over West Virginia, with the income from them untaxed.

Now a report released last week by the Abell Foundation estimated that Maryland loses millions of dollars each year because operators of such games don't report all their income and pay winners under the table.

The solution? Either ban the machines or legalize them so the state can get a cut of the now-untaxed revenue, estimated at between $63 million and $153 million per year.

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The machines could be outlawed, according to an Associated Press report, which said that the machines, by their nature, are illegal.

Baltimore City and Baltimore Country treat the devices as games for amusement only.

We don't recommend that the state legalize such machines. West Virginia's experience has been that some towns have been overwhelmed by video-type gambling parlors.

Those who want gambling on every corner already have the state lottery and Keno games. As alluring as those games might be, they're not as addictive as video poker, which Gambler Anonymous says can hook players more quickly than most other methods of gambling. Eliminate them now, while it is still relatively easy to do so.

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