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Howard County Dem targets tip-jar gambling in the region

November 02, 2007

Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat, said she was only looking for a new revenue source when she proposed that four Western Maryland counties yield control of their tip-jar operations to the state.

Our question for Del. Pendergrass: If you're looking for more revenue, why not look closer to home?

Howard County allows a variety of organizations and volunteer fire companies to conduct bingo games. Wouldn't Maryland benefit financially if those were overseen by the state?

Probably, but that's not going to happen. Del. Pendergrass has targeted a region without the clout of the metropolitan areas, which would quickly shoot down any attempt to curb their own charitable organizations' fundraising operations.

The arrogance of Pendergrass is breath-taking, for two reasons. Not only did she not bother to advise Western Maryland counties of what she planned to do, she appears to have done little research on the issue.

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Pendergrass said she felt the state's Lottery Agency should control tip-jar gambling because the two forms of gambling compete with each other.

How does she know? She doesn't and even admits as much.

"It's just a personal guess," she said. "There's no fact behind it."

On the basis of a hunch, Pendergrass is ready to tinker with a system that has provided $35 million to this county's charitable organizations since 1995.

Had she bothered to do any research, she would have found that the system is tightly regulated so that every jar is accounted for - and so those who don't follow the rules lose their gambling privileges.

Had she troubled herself to check, she would have found that the distribution of the money is handled by a volunteer board under strict guidelines.

And if she had looked at the record, she would have seen the list of organizations that have benefitted, including the following groups that received gaming money in August 2006:

The Corporation for Assistive Technology, which received $551 to continue its mission of building wheelchair ramps for the disabled.

The Community Free Clinic, which received $175,000 to treat people who are without health insurance. Until that award, the clinic had been forced to stop accepting new patients.

The Parent-Child Center, which received $30,000 to carry on its mission of preventing child abuse. One of the four programs that grant funded teaches parenting skills to teen parents, reducing the chances that their babies will be abused or neglected.

We challenge Del. Pendergrass to find a frivolous award or a flaw in the county's regulatory program.

We also challenge her to rediscover the concept of local courtesy, so that Western Maryland lawmakers won't have to endure her uninformed attempts to grab the money local charities depend on to fix a budget problem her party's leadership helped cause over the past eight years.

Without local courtesy, lawmakers from all over the state might decide they want to interfere in Howard County's affairs, much as she decided - with little or no thought - to tinker with a system that produces much good in Western Maryland.

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