Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lottery wins big

OK, someone needs to explain this to me. After complaining to fellow Daily Recordian and all-knowing blogger Andy Rosen, I am still in a state of confusion — nothing new if you ask those who reside in our newsroom.

The Maryland Lottery announced it has achieved record sales for the 10th consecutive year, amounting to $1.577 billion. Now that’s all well and good for the lottery — and the state, which gets $494 million in returned revenue — but how does that not fall under the “evils of gambling” so often linked to those hellacious pieces of machinery known as slots?

On top of the Pick 3, Pick 4, Mega Millions and monitor-style lottery games like Keno, Keno Bonus and Racetrax, there are the bundles and bundles of scratch-offs that clutter every gas station sales counter. Yet, the thought of slot machines at a racetrack where people are already wagering their money is somehow blasphemy.

The latest battle between good and evil involves Rosecroft Raceway and Penn National Gaming Inc. Penn, a national casino operator, is in the midst of buying Rosecroft, a harness racing track. Penn National already runs several facilities that have slots, and odds are they would like to see the Prince George’s County track be the next.

On top of the “moral” roadblock Penn National will face, Rosecroft’s nearby neighbor may be an issue. Some developers seem to think if Rosecroft did end up with sinful slots, that the National Harbor would also have to have them. Now, what would a $2 billion, 300-acre, mixed-use waterfront development along a 1.25-mile panoramic stretch of the Potomac River in Prince George’s County want to do with slot machines?

Either way, I would wager that after all the debating and protesting, the state will still have a deficit. Not that I’m a betting man.

-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

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