|Maryland churches oppose legalized slot machines|
By Melissa Lauber*
Oct. 12, 2007 | COLUMBIA, Md. (UMNS)
United Methodists in Maryland have joined religious leaders across
the state in opposing the governor's proposal for state-owned slot
United Methodists in Maryland have a choice, said Sandra Ferguson,
director of justice ministries for the Baltimore-Washington Annual
(regional) Conference. "We can act to stop the governor's proposal to
bring legalized slot machines to the state or we can wring our hands and
lament the ills that will inevitably follow. Act or lament — the
choice is that simple," she said.
In September, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, proposed
legalizing slots as one measure to close the state's $1.7 billion
shortfall. The governor's plan calls for 9,500 state-owned machines in
four counties, which would generate approximately $550 million annually
for education and other needs.
Bishop John R. Schol, episcopal leader of the Baltimore-Washington
Conference, has joined other religious leaders in the region in opposing
Bishop John R. Schol
"The state should not depend on gambling expansion for resources to
pay for needed services," the religious leaders said in a written
statement. "We speak not only because of our collective conscience as
religious leaders, but also as citizens of Maryland concerned about the
serious long-range consequences gambling will have on the quality of
life of all the citizens of our state."
These issues, the leaders said, include increases in divorce,
suicide, bankruptcy, child abuse, domestic violence and the poverty that
accompanies addiction to gambling.
'A menace to society'
As United Methodists, we oppose gambling as "a menace to society and a
regressive tax on the poor," Ferguson said. The 2004 United Methodist Book of Discipline
identifies gambling as "deadly to the interests of moral, social,
economic and spiritual life and destructive of good government." The Discipline calls on Christians to abstain from gambling and to minister to those victimized by the practice.
The religious community has also voiced opposition to O'Malley's
proposal for a special session of the Maryland legislature to consider
his budget plan. The General Assembly traditionally convenes in January.
"The danger in this is that a special session will not include the
normal hearings and input from citizens that the regular session will
provide. The bigger danger is approval of a non-specific slots proposal,
without knowing where and how many parlors will be established," said
the Rev. Bryon Brought, pastor of Cavalry United Methodist Church in
Annapolis. He has actively opposed slots since Maryland's previous
governor, Republican Robert Ehrlich, proposed the issue each year of his
"We've been fighting slots for more than a decade," Ferguson said. "Each year our opposition must be renewed."
While proponents say slot machines will generate
needed revenue, church leaders and other opponents say gambling will
bring a host of social ills. A UMNS file photo.
Opposition to the slots this year is being played out in rallies
across the state. On Oct. 4, at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland
Comptroller Peter Franchot warned that if slots are legalized, "casinos
in downtown Baltimore and slots in a neighborhood near you will follow."
"The predatory gambling industry goes where the money is," Franchot said.
Franchot said a recent report produced by Penn National Gaming for
state legislators claimed that a slot-machine casino in downtown
Baltimore or at the Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County could
generate $2 billion annually.
Penn National Gambling recently struck a deal to purchase Rosecroft
Raceway. It owns Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia, located
within the bounds of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. The 5,000 slot
machines at this track generated revenue of $448 million in 2006, the Baltimore Sun reported.
"The profit that can be made from slots is a huge temptation,"
Ferguson said. "But it in no way makes up for the suffering that
legalized gambling leaves in its wake. It destroys lives and
*Lauber is the editor of the UMConnection, the newspaper of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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