Little Reason To Oppose Fraternal Slots
Some decisions confronting governments are difficult but that cannot be said about the one made by the Ocean City Council to send a letter to legislators supporting slots in fraternal organizations.
We have been down this road before as both Ocean City and Worcester County sent letters last year to legislators expressing their support for slots at the various fraternal clubs in the county. The bill passed the House but failed to get the Senate’s approval in the waning days of this year’s legislative gathering in Annapolis. Subsequently, the clubs, led by local Elks Lodge leader Jim Flaig, are retracing their steps, securing the support from Ocean City and the county, which will reportedly be approached in the coming weeks before the legislature reconvenes in January.
Currently, Worcester is the only jurisdiction on Maryland’s Eastern Shore prohibiting slots in the fraternal clubs. It has been said the significant funds they currently give to the community will soar if slots are brought in. Flaig said this week approximately $200,000 in additional money could be pumped back into the community, like “Little Leagues and parks and other charities,” if they were allowed to house slots machines for their members. In 2006, 49 such Eastern Shore organizations operated roughly 250 slot machines, donating about $3.5 million to charity, fraternal officials say.
We see no harm in allowing fraternal organizations to have limited slots. You have to be a member to be allowed in these clubs, and the contributions the clubs make to the community fill a major void elsewhere. The benefits far outweigh any negative here. It’s key the legislation that’s drafted and approved place limits on how many terminals can be installed at each of the clubs and limits the proliferation. Last year’s legislation did that.
The bill should have been passed last year, but late political games and the fact it was not cross-filed in the Senate got in the way and led to its demise. Delegate Jim Mathias let it be known this week he is planning to introduce legislation again that would attempt to lift the current exemption. He understands some of the local fraternal clubs are hurting financially and deserve a funding mechanism, particularly considering they will share the proceeds with the community in which the membership resides.
It’s as if pledged funding commitments to community organizations were not enough, it would seem the recent mandate for slots at racetracks and other locations would help bolster the cause.