Gambling is BIG business in this state. Yet much of wha goes on isn't regulated. Law enforcement agencies are often helpless to do anything about suspicious situations involving tens of millions in cash generated by this gambling mania.
Look at the situation in Prince George's County. Only weeks ago, the Internal Revenue Service raided three casinos there suspected of falsifying their financial statements. Three other casino fund-raising establishments are also under active investigation by the IRS. In one case, a casino group reported XTC receipts of $800,000 over 18 months. Yet one official said he knows the group's profits exceeded $2.8 million.
Where did the money go? How many casino fund-raisers in Prince George's County alone cook the books? What else might be going on?
We'll never know because the state's gambling laws are such a jumble. What is needed is a statewide Gambling Control Board, as proposed by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell and embraced by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. But the stubbornness of one senator, Chairman Walter Baker of Cecil County, doomed the bill in the legislature last month. Senator Baker kept insisting there isn't any problem with gambling in Maryland.
Given this head-in-the-sand attitude, the best approach is to present lawmakers with the full range of gambling dangers in Maryland, from Western Maryland tip jars to Eastern Shore slot machines and everything in between. The governor is pondering such a move. We urge him to appoint a task force to collect data on gambling in Maryland and the difficulties in policing these far-flung activities. Such a report might help persuade reluctant lawmakers that there is a problem, one that has to be confronted before Maryland finds itself faced with a major scandal.