AME church leaders decry gambling plan

Leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church district that includes Maryland registered their opposition Thursday to the state’s ballot measure on expanded gambling, saying they would urge their flock to vote against Question 7 next week.

Bishop William P. DeVeaux said the measure — which would allow a Las Vegas-style casino in Prince George’s County and table games at previously designated slots sites — was a short-sighted attempt at boosting state revenue and creating jobs.

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“We’re looking at an easy answer to a more profound question,” DeVeaux said at a news conference at Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington. He was surrounded by about 50 church leaders and other foes of the gambling expansion plan. DeVeaux presides over a district that encompasses Maryland, Virginia, the District and North Carolina.

The event was the latest attempted show of strength from both sides in the battle over Question 7, which has played out most visibly in a costly ad war on television. Recent polling has shown Marylanders split on the issue.

Earlier this week, the campaign committee for passage of Question 7 announced the endorsements of the NAACP Maryland State Conference, the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police and the Professional Firefighters of Maryland.

Leaders of the organization touted the promise of additional jobs, revenue for education and the curtailment of gambling dollars going to surrounding states. Table games, such as black jack and roulette, are already legal in West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

The same committee, called For Maryland Jobs and Schools, has also advertised an event Friday at which it said it will produce religious leaders who support Question 7.

The sole large funder of the television campaign against Question 7 has been Penn National Gaming, whose properties include a casino in West Virginia that analysts say would take a hit if another large venue opens in Maryland.

At Thursday’s event, Jonathan Weaver, pastor of Greater Mount Nebo AME Church, stressed that the group’s opposition did not result from the Penn-financed advertising campaign.

“There are likely tens of thousands of people who are opposed to the expansion of gambling into this county not because of these commercials,” he said.

 
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