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Dueling Rallies on Slots in Annapolis

Supporters and opponents of slot-machine gambling staged dueling rallies this morning in Annapolis, as lawmakers prepared for a day of hearings on Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to legalize the video terminal machines in Maryland.

Slots is perhaps the most controversial measure in the plan introduced by O'Malley (D) to close a budget shortfall projected to be at least $1.5 million.

Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) rallied on the steps of the state Treasury Building with a couple dozen slots opponents. He said he believes the slots measure could fail in the legislature's special session and that supporters are pushing the "panic button."

"The tide is turning in our favor and the forces of evil are on the defensive," Franchot said. Franchot called legalizing slot machines a "sleazy, predatory, corrupt, regressive tax on poor people."

"This divisive and corrosive debate about slots has consumed all our energy," Franchot said. He said Marylanders are being held hostage to the national gaming industry.

Meanwhile, several hundred people working in the horse racing industry rallied steps from the State House in support of O'Malley's slots bill. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) joined the rally and said passing the slots measure is "a very easy issue for me."

"I know what racing means to Maryland," Miller said. "We're going to make it happen ..... we're going to get it done."
The crowd cheered, "Thank you, Mike!" and "Keep up the fight, Mike!"

Several labor union leaders said bringing slot-machine gambling to Maryland would help revive the state's slumping horse-racing industry and save jobs.

"Our livelihoods are on the line," said Michael Jeffra, who has worked at race tracks for 25 years. "Mr. O'Malley, wherever you're at, please help us save our jobs."

-- Philip Rucker

By  |  November 2, 2007; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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Comments

The duel is between those that think the gamblers should subsidize the tax increase and those that think MD Taxpayers should just pay more. It's a no-brainer, just like those against slots and For higher taxes.

Posted by: WhoPays | November 2, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"Franchot called legalizing slot machines a "sleazy, predatory, corrupt, regressive tax on poor people."
Then WHAT'S the LOTTERY and Scratch-off???

Posted by: Bethesda | November 2, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I agreed with Franchot on the special session - slots and taxes are issues better left to the regular general session. But on slots he's dead wrong.

"Franchot called legalizing slot machines a 'sleazy, predatory, corrupt, regressive tax on poor people.' "

I am so sick of this patronizing and condescending argument. Implicit in Franchot's claim are the assertions that (1) only poor people play slots; and (2) that poor people lack the ability to control their own actions and make their own rational choices. We can't have slots because we have to protect poor people from themselves.

What other choices should we take away from poor people? Should we require proof of sufficient disposable income before we sell liquor or cigarettes, junk food or cars?

The political philosopher J.S. Mills argued that one of the great benefits of liberalism (in the small "l" liberal democracy sense) was that it allowed individuals to make choices in all aspects of their lives. No one promised that folks wouldn't make bad choices, and that the choices wouldn't have consequences, consequences that could be harsh and negative. But this very act of making choices and accepting responsibility helped the individuals become better people. Without choices there is no possibility for personal growth or development.

When we declare that one class of people can't be trusted to make choices for their own lives, it demeans us all.

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