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Sunset for casinos Veto promised: P.G. 'charity' games, slots in Cambridge, Cumberland appear doomed.


IF YOU WANT to gamble at "charity" casinos in Prince George's County (you can pick from 16 different ones that are open twice a week), do it soon. Come May, these wagering parlors will disappear. And the governor of Maryland says he will make sure the casinos' doors stay shut -- for good.

Under state law, authorization for these P.G. casinos expires in May. Under no circumstances, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said, would he extend the casinos' life. "I will not permit the lifting of the sunset," he said, adding that he would veto legislation aimed at saving the casinos, if necessary.

"No bill that authorizes casinos or slot machines will pass my desk," the governor wrote to the Dorchester County commissioners, who want a casino for Cambridge. He had the same message for folks in Allegany County promoting a slot-machine casino in Cumberland.

Even casino lobbyist Gerard E. Evans, an eternal optimist and "Friend of Parris," had to admit the governor's unequivocal stance "doesn't bode well for gambling issues around the state." That's a diplomatic way of saying slot machines and casinos are lost causes while Mr. Glendening governs.

Weep not for the expiring P.G. casinos. Untold millions have disappeared from tables with no accounting for their whereabouts. Professionals run these "volunteer" games for fire companies and boys clubs. Only a fraction of the loot is spent on charities.

It is a corrupt, addictive enterprise. Mr. Glendening failed to crack down hard on these casinos for most of his 12 years as Prince George's chief executive, but he is making up for it now. And just in time: Gambling supporters not only seek re-authorization, but additional casino licenses. Greed knows no bounds.

The pipe dream of sudden riches for a city or county from the arrival of casino gambling remains an illusion. It is time for elected officials to put an end to such talk. Legalized gambling isn't a panacea. The governor has made it a dead issue in Maryland.

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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