The Dernogalizer

September 30, 2008

Column on Slots

Filed under: Dernoga,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:44 am
Tags: , , ,
House Always Wins

House Always Wins

So I have a column on the slots referendum in Maryland out today. It had to be edited pretty short, so the longer version can be found below. The online version can be found here

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Did you know that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to gamble? This is why the slots referendum we’ll be voting on in November will place 15,000 slots in three rural areas, and two low income minority areas. The poor also gamble differently than the rest of us, at proportionately higher stakes as an ill advised investment rather than entertainment. The reality is that slots are a regressive tax on the poor that bring negative social consequences. They are highly correlated with gambling addiction, crime, domestic violence, and child neglect.

It’s alarming to see such a lack of morality and vision that lawmakers seek to take advantage of low income people and minorities to reap profits for our state. They disregard the baggage that slots bring with them as tomorrow’s problems. It’s a failure to recognize that with poor planning and a lack of vision, tomorrow’s problems can quickly become today’s. That’s, after all, how we got into a budget deficit in the first place.

A little over a year ago there was a noose left hanging outside the Nyumburu Cultural Center. Everyone from University officials, to student leaders, to the Diamondback held discussions and rallies about race relations and racism. It couldn’t be more clear to me right now that everyone missed the mark. The noose represented far more than racism, it represented social oppression of people. Slots are a form of oppression targeted at low income minorities. How can anyone protest a noose hung by one bigot, yet stay silent or support slots being voted on by millions of Marylanders? We’re so quick to condemn blatant racism, but slower than a snail with arthritis to spot its more subtle signs.

Where is the leadership on campus with this issue? What happened to President Mote? Where are the College Democrats and College Republicans? How does the SGA not take a position? What about the cultural groups on campus? Are there suddenly no activist groups on this campus that stand for social justice and equality? If you’re going to talk, walk. Are we all paralyzed simply because the promise of funding for higher education is tied to a measure that challenges our principles?

There’s a fascinating similarity between the slots referendum supporters, and the people that slots will be taking money from. Our University, our Board of Regents, and many of our elected officials are desperate. They need money very badly. They’re willing to try and acquire it by any means necessary, even if in better circumstances they would prefer to do it differently. Compare that to the people who play slots. Just as desperate. Most of them have very little money. They’re just hoping to catch a break against a system that seems more stacked against them every hour of every day. So they play our game.

In this game, the odds are impossible to overcome. They can’t win, but they need to hit the big one to find a way out. Our revenue depends on them losing. Maryland is the wealthiest state in the nation because we invest in our residents. But, this time we’re working harder on creating slot machines than good paying jobs to rejuvenate the economy and balance the budget.

So the single mother pops in quarter after quarter, and keeps pulling the lever. The man fighting alcoholism becomes a gambling addict and digs deeper into his meager savings. Children never make it to college to see the higher education benefits their parents paid for. These people may never crawl out of their budget shortfall. It’s okay though, we win. Right?

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