The supporters and opponents of legalized gambling in the District of Columbia each trumpeted their strong suits yesterday in trying to woo last minute voters in tomorrow's referendum on whether to allow betting on jai alai, dog racing and lotteries.
Pro-gambling campaign workers readied a final campaign flyer to send to 25,000 voters. The flyer promoted the creation of a lottery in the District such as the daily numbers operation that exists in Maryland. But the flyer ignored the referendum's more controversial proposals to legalize betting on jai alai and dog racing.
Meanwhile about 275 gambling foes gathered for an afternoon rally at the First Baptist Church to pray, sing and lustily cheer antigambling pronouncements -- especially against jai alai and dog racing -- from two City Council members and a host of ministers.
"There are entrepreneurs from all over the country [who have made large campaign donations to the progambling forces] who expect to get rich on the backs of the poor," Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) told the antigambling rally. "They have made their [financial] input. Now it's time to make ours.
"Gambling is not good for the nation's capital," she said. "This is a family town and people look at us as leaders of the world."
But she told her mostly black, middle-aged, churchgoing audience that they should not try to moralize about the gambling measure to others for fear that they "would think we're trying to save their souls."
A longtime gambling opponent, Council member William Spaulding (D-Ward 5), spread his arms wide and charged that there are "loopholes this wide" in the 43-page gambling bill.
Another speaker, James Langley, executive director of the D.C. Baptist Convention, contended that the initiative was an invitation to organized crime and that legalized gambling here would weaken the drive to get full congressional voting rights for the city.
While the antigambling forces rallied at First Baptist, about 20 workers hired by the supporters of gambling continued to methodically call about 15,000 voters they previously had identified as supporting the referendum to again urge them to vote for it.
They concentrated the calls in Wards 4 through 8, which make up the largely black eastern half of the city. Gambling supporters hope to roll up big vote margins in those words to offset an expected heavy loss in Ward 3, the affluent, predominantly white voting district west of Rock Creek Park.
Other progambling workers assembled black-and-red signs at the campaign's storefront office in Southeast Washington for later placement at precincts throughout the city. Others worked on the campaign flyer.
The flyer is an artsy production with a red train engine on the cover pulling a cart with a dollar sign in it. The inscription tells voters. "There Is A Money Train To Maryland."
Inside, the progambling statement informs D.C. voters that "Marylanders love the money train, because it gives them a free ride at our expense," a statement based on the gambling forces' contention that cash-strapped city government losses millions of dollars annually in revenue when D.C. residents play the Maryland lottery and daily numbers games.
The flyer says that the way to stop the money train to Maryland is to legalize a lottery in the city.
The flyer also states that gambling revenue -- possibly $35 million a year -- could be used to improve public housing, for "making our school system worthy of the children we send to it," and for "providing increased and improved police protection."
However, under the 43-page gambling bill that would become law with passage of the referendum, the only specific D.C. program that would get any gambling revenue is special education.
The measure says gambling profits would go to three categories: unfunded but authorized D.C. programs, private and public special education programs and nonprofit groups that provide services for city residents.