CHAIRPERSON JAMES: Barbara -- and please help me with the correct pronunciation. Is it Knickelbein.

MS. KNICKELBEIN: Knickelbein.


MS. KNICKELBEIN: Good afternoon, distinguished members of the Commission. My name is Barbara Knickelbein. I'm the Maryland State Coordinator for NCAGE and the chair of the Church and Society Commission of the Glen Burnie United Methodist Church.

I've come before you today to voice my deep concern as an American about the rapid expansion of gambling in this country in the last few years and its negative economic and social impact on society.

Attached to my written statement is a letter to the editor I had published recently in the Baltimore Sun showing just one day of the 20 to 30 gambling related articles I read from mainstream newspapers and magazine on a daily basis.

The more I read, the more I become alarmed with its proliferation in my state, the neighboring states, and throughout this country. Yes, gambling does appear to bring jobs and money to some areas, but it brings with it far much more trouble than it's worth.

I've been fighting this battle on nothing but economic and social grounds. Yet time and time again, because I am an active leader in my local church the press refers to it as a money versus morals fight, and lest you think this is nothing but a conservative Christian fight, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that the PBS show "Front Line" and the ultra liberal Mother Jones Magazine recently showed the down side of gambling. Mother Jones, July- August '97 online magazine gives a state-by-state accounting of the obscene amount of money the gambling industry spends on lobbying efforts and campaign contributions.

What is the average citizen to think? What am I to think? Is our government truly for sale?

Since there is no massive grassroots efforts supporting gambling, then why is there so much attention on this subject? Frankly, money equals access, and the gambling industry with its deep pockets has the ear of our lawmakers.

All we're asking is that the gambling industry tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. When they approach our legislators, they often pull revenue figures out of thin air and don't offer proof to the validity of those figures.

They also downplay or totally ignore the negative economic and social impact that their so- called product brings to an area.

I'm very optimistic about the mission of this distinguished Commission. You truly have our country's future in your hands. We urge that legal and factual studies be conducted that are not funded by the gambling industry, showing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What we need from you is a commitment to find that truth and a commitment to stem the purchase of influence. Armed with the truth and on a level playing field, we are confident that our legislators will better be able to make prudent decisions in the future and will see clearly that the bad and the ugly far outweigh any good that gambling expansion brings.

Thank you.

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