The following remarks are excerpted from Feb. 25 testimony by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) before the Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates:
Let me begin by saying I am here as a reluctant witness. For one, I do not live in Maryland and I do not like being in a position of telling people in Maryland what to do. Second, I like Governor Ehrlich. He is a friend. I rooted for him last November. We served together in the House. As Republicans, we share the same principles. . . .
[But] I am concerned about what bringing slots to Maryland will mean for Virginia and the entire Washington metropolitan region. Whether it comes to issues of transportation, homeland security or the economy, our region is totally interdependent.
So let's be candid. If slots come to Maryland, there will be great pressure to bring gambling to Virginia. . . . While slots may provide Maryland with a short-term economic benefit, over the long run slot machines may actually cost Maryland, the District and Virginia money.
The issue of gambling is not new to me. I authorized the legislation creating the National Gambling Commission, which in 1999 issued a comprehensive report on gambling in the United States. I called for the commission because of the explosion of legalized gambling in the 1990s and wanted the facts on the impact of gambling to be available to communities when the gambling industry comes calling. . . .
Study after study after study has shown that gambling leads to higher crime in the communities where casinos or slot machines are located, prostitution, bankruptcy, spousal and child abuse, and the breakup of families. . . .
The cost of pathological gamblers to society is significant. The Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions reported in 1997 that from 1994 to 1997 new pathological gamblers cost the American taxpayer $3.5 billion per year. Some estimate that these costs and related public health costs are even higher than the cost of drug addiction to society. Maryland's own Valerie Lorenz, executive director of the Compulsive Gambling Center, . . . said that 10 years ago, there were approximately 50,000 compulsive gamblers in Maryland. With the slots coming to West Virginia and Delaware, she says that number has now doubled to 100,000. . . .
Gambling's short-term economic benefits look less impressive when paired with the bankruptcies caused by gambling. Those without health insurance, under significant emotional strain and who are compulsive gamblers often lose all they have as a result of gambling.
Then the state has to pay for the costs of these bankruptcies through social services, court services and the like. . . .
Gambling may appear to be an easy solution to a state's economic concerns. In reality it has a number of expensive and undesirable effects on a state: increased crime, chronic addiction to gambling, bankruptcies and an increasing number of women becoming addicted to gambling.