NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
MS. SMITH: I'm Linda Smith. I'm from nearby Maryland.
The president of my community association advised me not to come here today. He said it would be a waste of my time and my effort. I have chosen to disregard his advice because I believe that people who care can make a difference in preserving or improving the quality of life for their family, their community and even their nation.
And, distinguished Chairwoman and gentlemen, I know that you believe that as well or you would not have agreed to serve on this Commission.
It is truly a great privilege for me to be able to speak to this distinguished panel. I appreciate your giving your time and employing your talent to serve your country by investigating the impact of gambling.
I have not been paid to be here. I have paid all my own expenses, and I am happy to do that for all the parents who live too far away to travel here today.
I know that you have access to all the pertinent statistics. So I just wish to relate to you my personal observations and concerns.
My primary observation is that the gambling industry is very good at marketing itself. For several years now, they have been trying to bring slot machines and casinos to Maryland. Only the work of the Maryland senators and delegates, some of whom already testified, and the strong stand taken by Governor Glendening and Attorney General Curran have prevented the influx of commercial gambling into Maryland because, as I was able to observe first hand when I testified before the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee in Annapolis, the gambling industry is excellent at appearing appealing. They have presented themselves as a painless way to raise revenues and as the only hope to save Maryland's proud tradition of horse racing.
They have also played one state against another, telling us that Delaware slot machines will destroy Maryland's horse racing industry, and that Delaware and West Virginia are siphoning out all of Maryland's tax dollars -- tourist dollars, and that if Maryland does not act quickly, both Pennsylvania and Virginia will legalize slots and do the same thing.
Of course, the people of Pennsylvania are being told the same, but to them Maryland is the ogre that's going to rise up and take their tourist dollars.
I have also had an opportunity to observe the effect of slot machines and casinos in other states. In 1990, while our family was traveling to Yosemite National Park, we stayed overnight in Reno, Nevada. We decided to visit a family oriented casino.
Upstairs was an all you can eat style buffet and an area where circus acts performed to entertain the children. Downstairs were the slot machines and all the gaming tables.
I observed that throughout the casino was carefully designed to prevent me from sensing the passage of time. Not only were there no clocks, but there were no windows and no way of telling if it was night or day, and everything operated continuously 24 hours per day.
I consider myself a responsible mother, but I found myself being lulled into a mindset thinking the children are being entertained, and I didn't even realize how much time I was spending downstairs.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Ms. Johnson, I'm going to have to ask you to submit the remaining portions of your comments for the record.
MS. SMITH: Okay. Can I just --
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: I would ask that you submit it, and I promise you that we will read those comments.
MS. SMITH: Okay. Thank you very much.
CHAIRPERSON JAMES: You are welcome.