Casino Gambling in Howard? Pass


Howard County Executive Charles Ecker, County Council Chairman Charles Feaga and other local county Republicans have laid their cards on the table: They oppose casino gambling, and they don't want it anywhere in Maryland.

Especially not in Howard County.

Mr. Ecker, Mr. Feaga and two other council members -- Republicans Darrel Drown and Dennis Schrader -- recently wrote a letter to Gov. Parris Glendening urging the state's chief executive to keep casino operators out of the state.

The two Democrats on the Howard County Council, Vernon Gray and Mary Lorsung, did not sign the letter. However, both members have stated they also have their own concerns about the legalization of casino games.

This opposition is well-founded. Marylanders, including those residing in Howard County, have raised no hue-and-cry in favor of bringing casinos here, though that has not stopped gaming-industry lobbyists from painting the rosiest of futures for the Free State if only its elected officials would let the croupiers in the door.

In fact, as the Howard County politicians have said, the proposal comes with pitfalls that outweigh the projected giant tax windfalls for the state and its subdivisions from all the dice-rolling, card-dealing and slots-playing.

They argue that the presence of casinos could have a negative impact on nearby neighborhoods and businesses. It could cripple Maryland's horse racing industry. It could lure organized crime into the state once and for all. It could give those bettors addicted to the ponies and the various state lottery games yet one more reason to risk their savings and, as a result, become more dependent on government social service programs.

Is it any wonder Chuck Ecker and company want no part of the casino scene?

Certainly, Howard County would be a particularly inappropriate setting for such an operation. Think of all the up-and-coming businesses and young families that have moved to Howard over the past 25 years. Would they keep coming if they knew they would be living near the Atlantic City of Central Maryland, complete with, say, riverboat gambling on Lake Kittamaqundi and a Taj Mahal complex overlooking historic Ellicott City?

The county executive and his colleagues in elective office don't need to be told the answer to that question. To the idea of casino gambling in Howard, they have done well to say "pass."

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