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Gaming panel a welcome part of our community

August 07, 2012

The Washington County Gaming Commission announced last week that it collected nearly $2 million in tip-jar revenue in fiscal 2012.

While this is slightly less than was collected in the previous year, it’s still a sizable amount of money. And more to the point, it’s a sizable amount of money that the taxpayers do not have to pony up on their own.

Without the gaming money, public and quasi-public budgets would be stretched even tighter and difficult funding decisions would be made all the harder.

So it is fitting that we not take this money for granted, and that we pay tribute to the many people over the years who made this fund possible.

Coincidentally, we mark the passing last week of former Judge John Corderman, who was among the first to help strip the veil of secrecy from the county’s underground gambling revenue stream.

It has not been that long ago that these millions of dollars went — where? No one knew. Ostensibly, tip jar revenue was supposed to go largely to charity, but a Herald-Mail investigation in the ’90s found that only $7 out of every $100 in revenue made it into charitable hands. It took a lot of hard work and a change in state law to get the money headed into its intended direction.

Today, the Gaming Commission has established itself as a critical funding arm for some important services and agencies in the county. How much more difficult would it be for the Community Free Clinic or the REACH shelter to operate — or could they operate at all — without the gaming money?

With far more requests for money than funds available, there will always be some arguments about who and what are most deserving. But we believe that since its inception, the Gaming Commission has done an admirable job of parceling out the funds, especially in times when government budgets are so constrained.

The contributions also highlight the importance of the job the Washington County legislative delegation has done and is doing in protecting this money from state encroachment.

Gambling money will always be in danger of state takeover efforts. But it is our hope that Annapolis would see and appreciate what an effective model Washington County’s gaming structure has become.

Lawmakers should also be aware that less state money is being requested from Washington County nonprofits and charities because we are able to provide some of this revenue ourselves.

In fact, Washington County gaming law might be one of our bigger success stories of the past quarter century. A suspect and unaccountable cash flow was brought out into the sunshine and fairly regulated so that all people of Washington County might benefit.

It is with that in mind that we extend our thanks to the many people who helped make this a reality.

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