- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On Nov. 4, Maryland voters will be deciding whether to amend the state Constitution to allow “video lottery terminals,” which is a fancy name for slot machines.

I am dismayed that our court system did not require significant changes in the language. It was drafted by Secretary of State John P. McDonough, who formerly was a lobbyist for Rosecroft Raceway.

What voters will see is misleading language that mentions only that revenue will be used “primarily” for education.

The truth is there is no guarantee that money raised by slots will not be offset by taking money out of the general fund, thus resulting in no new funds for education.

The ballot language makes no mention of the 33 percent of slots revenue that goes directly to the casino operators. It doesn’t disclose the $100 million in corporate-welfare payments for the horse-racing industry. It also makes no mention of the 2.5 percent set aside to repair privately owned racetracks.

How can voters make an informed decision when the ballot language is so deficient in facts?

Finally, the very fact that approving slot machines requires a constitutional amendment is not receiving much coverage. Is gambling really worth amending the Constitution? The reason it requires a constitutional amendment is that residents of the state of Maryland already worked very hard in the 1960s to eradicate slot machines from our midst. They were legal in four counties and caused serious problems, including government corruption and crime. (We know this still happens: Jefferson County, W.Va., home of Charles Town Races, experienced an 83 percent increase in crime between 2004 and 2006.)

The grass-roots movement of the day was attempting to ensure that Maryland would never again have to deal with the scourge of slot machines by ensuring that a constitutional amendment would be necessary to have such gambling ever again in our great state. I hope we remember our history.

I find it alarming that our ballot language is misleading. I also think we all know that when we ignore our own history, we are doomed to repeat it.

AMY YARNALL

Elkton, Md.

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