Anti-gambling Conference Set for National Harbor
Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and acclaimed chronicler of the civil rights movement, will headline a two-day anti-gambling conference at National Harbor in Prince George's County on Friday.
Branch is a member of the steering committee for Marylanders United to Stop Slots and has spoken out on the issue before. A national group called Stop Predatory Gambling snagged him to deliver the keynote address at an event designed to "sharpen the focus on relying on predatory gambling as a way to fund government," executive director Leslie Bernal said. November's ballot question on slots, if approved, would authorize up to 15,000 machines at five sites in Maryland.
Other scheduled speakers include Bishop John Schol, head of the Baltimore/Washington United Methodist Conference, the Rev. Jonathan Weaver, an anti-slots activist from Prince George's County, and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), the most vocal state politician fighting the referendum. Other religious leaders, policy wonks, attorneys and journalists active in the anti-gambling movement are scheduled to speak.
The National Harbor locale was strategic: It's a gambling-free environment. "It's one of the nicest entertainment properties on the East Coast that does not have gimmicks like slots machines," said Bernal, a Boston native.
The conference will feature workshops on how electronic gambling works, how slots are marketed, how they can become addictive and how many state governments are increasingly dependent on gambling revenue to fund their budgets.
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