MARYLAND'S CASINO study commission has an opportunity tomorrow to slam the door on expanded gambling and then firmly put the lock in place. Casinos are not needed or wanted in this state. The commission should emphatically and unequivocally say so.
There is no groundswell of public support for casinos in this state. None. Some groups in depressed towns in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore have been seduced by the false promises of great riches and a booming local economy, but the public in general hasn't fallen for this scam. Opinion polls show an overwhelming number of citizens dead set against casinos. The study commission, led by former Sen. Joseph D. Tydings, must take this public opposition to heart.
Public disaffection is palpable. Look what happened last Tuesday in referendums around the country. Washington state soundly rejected slot machines on Indian reservations. Two Indiana counties across the river from Louisville rejected riverboat gambling for the second time in two years. Two towns in Massachusetts opposed casinos. Jefferson City, Mo., turned down riverboat gambling.
Why permit casinos in Maryland? Why ruin existing businesses? Why bring the problems of casinos -- a big increase in compulsive gamblers, heightened crime, mob connections and corrupt influences -- into our communities? Are we so desperate and unable to enhance our economy through legitimate means that we must cut a deal with companies that feed on the weaknesses of our citizens?
Casinos are attempting to buy their way into Maryland. They are enticing state legislators. They are seducing local deal-makers who want to reap millions through part-interest in a casino. They are promising small-town officials local prosperity with few side effects. And they are willing to pour tens of millions of dollars into this state to get their way.
Not only should the Tydings commission reject casinos for Maryland, it should issue a harshly critical report that discourages further efforts to entrap our public officials. Casinos don't provide riches for gamblers or for communities. It is all a cruel illusion.