Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > News Archive 2007 > October 2007 > News - October 2007
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 machines.

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 

Bishop John R. Schol, episcopal leader of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, has joined other religious leaders in the region in opposing slot machines.

"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 four-year term.

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.

"We've been fighting slots for more than a decade," Ferguson said. "Each year our opposition must be renewed."

Statewide efforts

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 communities."

*Lauber is the editor of the UMConnection, the newspaper of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Related Video

Elderly Gambling Addicts

Related Articles

Group studying gambling, American Indian sovereignty

Commentary: Gambling addicts include older adults

Slots battle "not over"

Gambling opponents exhort one another to stand strong

Pennsylvania approves slot machines at tracks, casinos

Religious leaders united against Casino gambling


Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

United Methodist Board of Church and Society

Book of Discipline

National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW

Original text