An Anne Arundel Community College student sitting at a slots machine says to his friend, "Go on over to class. I'll be there as soon as I get ahead again."
A mother or big sister says to the younger kids as she drops them off at the food court, "Have fun! I'll be back to get you after I get finished playing slots."
A young girl standing outside a shoe store in Arundel Mills says to her brother, "When is daddy coming? How long does it take for him to win enough money to buy the pair of shoes I really want?"
These are conversations you might expect to hear if we have slots at Arundel Mills Mall. It is one thing to plan a gambling trip, with money set aside for likely losses. It is another thing to be pulled in as walk-in traffic when the money you are using was intended to be used for shopping for essentials for your family or you were in the area for some other reason, such as to attend classes at Anne Arundel Community College.
I have seen the pain that inappropriate gambling can bring to a family. We cannot protect everybody from every mistake they could make. However, we can take some steps to help people avoid activities that not only impact them but can have devastating impacts on their families.
We do need to find ways to balance the budget and provide jobs, but not every means of acquiring revenue is in our overall best interest. There are many reasons to oppose slots at Arundel Mills mall.
One of the original compelling reasons for slots in Maryland was to help the horse industry, not just to subsidize it. However, slots at Arundel Mills will likely pull some gamblers away from the race track. Having slots co-located with horse racing would provide alternative gambling at one site and would likely draw customers to the race track.
Despite talk about traffic and parking improvements to be provided with the slots development, all I have seen is a plan that shows the slots casino and parking decks located in the area outside the food court where there is currently a parking lot. The mall must expect increased business/traffic flow since, according to a Baltimore Sun article on October 15, "A subsidiary of the mall's parent company donated $2 million to the pro-Arundel Mills campaign." I have not seen any proposals showing how the current or increased traffic flow will be relieved.
It appears that a major reason for locating slots at the Arundel Mills Mall site is to draw in customers who are in the area for other reasons. As mentioned above, it is one thing to plan a gambling adventure with a known budget and expectations; it is quite another thing to be drawn in on the spur of the moment as walk-in traffic when you do not have the money set aside to lose. I don't know how much separation is needed between the slots and other shopping to avoid this problem, but when you can park your car and walk just as easily either way, they are too close.
Zoning laws give our citizens the opportunity through their elected representatives to have a say in how our land is developed. In this case, citizens have an opportunity to make a choice directly through the referendum process. Based on what I have observed from the community associations in the area surrounding Arundel Mills, the residents in those communities do not want the slots there. Mama Lucia, a restaurant in the Arundel Mills area, conducted a survey, and 76 percent of their customers who filled out the form said they will vote against Question A. We need to consider more alternatives before forcing slots into a community where they don't want it.
Proponents of Slots at Arundel Mills and many of our government representatives claim there are no other alternatives. It is not the case that there are no other alternatives, but it is the case that it has been easier to go with the flow of the slots at Arundel Mills and not seriously explore other alternatives. Let's direct our elected local and state representatives along with the Cordish Cos. and other business leaders to take the high road, to explore other alternatives, and to develop a win-win solution which creates revenue, supports the horse industry, and puts slots in an appropriate location by voting against Question A on November 2.
Paul Harrell Jr., Severn