Maryland Racing Wisdom: Reformers Cross-Eyed View of States Turf Sport Dissected, Daily Racing Form, 1922-03-07


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MARYLAND RACING WISDOM ♦ Reformers Cross-Eyed View of States Turf Sport Dissected. + Baltimore Suns Survey of Present Racing Regulation and Legislation Against It. ♦ In l clear and lurid editorial the Baltimore Sun, which is ■ clear mirror of Maryland affairs, prints the following ■bant Maryland racing and the pre--ent Maryland legislation leveled against it by the ••uplift" tribe and its narrow tools: 1 The gentlemen who have succeeded in getting through the house of delegates a bill prohibiting race track gambling present arguments which undoubtedly deserve consideration, and which, at first thought, might seem convincing. They charge that bet ting at the Maryland race tracks is respon-ible for a large number of embezzlements each year; that it is responsible for the squandering of enormous sums of money, most of which goes to unrefined gentlemen outside the state, who own most of the shares of stock in the various Maryland tracks; thai it brings into the state each year a large retinue of dissolute people of both sexes, who take out of the state laige sums of money and leave behind them a trail of disease, vice and crime; that the race track barons have gone into politics in Maryland and have used corrupt means to gain their political ends. "Thiso are. indeed, grave charges. If true, or laruely true, and if the passage of the bill proposed would end these offenses, then every right-minded man ought to favor the measure. A dispassionate examination of the evidence, however, shows that llie is not so simple as that. "Take the allegation as lo einblezzlements. due to betting on the races, for instance. After all, the MBshei of them is bur an infinitesimal fraction of the total number of those who bet on the races. Does this betting turn thousands of men into thieves/ Does it make or tend to make the majority of bettor- dishonest? Does it tend to make the majority worthless and shiftless in a business sense, so that they devote all their minds and energies to racing and become useless for business purposes? This is obviously not tine, any more than it is true the majority of the persons who bet occasionally on bridge or poker or football or baseball. BETTING: 3USINESS: HUMANITY. "Neither American business nor American morals is being undermined or corrupted by race track betting. If it were so corrupting and dangerous as is charged Great Britain would surely have gone to smash long ago. Nearly everybody there, from t lie belled earl and his lady to the costermonger and his missis, bets on hoist rates sad makes no secret of it. "We have outlawed race track betting in all but three or four states. Will it be seriously contended that American morals are higher or American business more solid in our denatured states than in Great Britain? Is there less crime in New York City, under its anti-racing law. than in London? Is there less ciime and greater honesty, proportionally, in New York City than in Baltimore and in Maryland? Is Georgia less lawless than Louisiana? Is there a higher code of private life and business honor in Illinois than in Kentucky? "As for the small minority who are corrupted, is not their yielding to temptation due less to the race tracks than to their own weakness anil lack of will power? If they hadnt the races to play with, would they not play with the stock market or some oilier form of gambling? It weiild be interesting if statistics could he prepared showing tile comparative number of defalcations allegedly due to tiie race tracks and to the stock market. We say allegedly because, after all. no one knows how much sincerity there is in the excuses given by these criminals. It used to be popular for men caught in crime to blame everything on littler, because that provoked a certain amount of sympathy. Now they blame the race tracks: but if there were no race tracks they would blame the stock market or something else. "It is evident to the impartial ami disinterested thinker that such legislation as is proposed is designed f r the protection of a small minority of the weak. The large majority are to be denied ■ privilege anil a pleasure because there is a small percentage of the weak or vicious who cannot resist temptation. PRESENT REGULATION IS HEALTHY. "Must this majority he punished for the sins of this small minority? If, because a certain form of recreation or pleasure demoralizes Tom. must Dick and •Harry suffer for it? Dancing should be prohibited by law on the same ground, if this logic prevails. So should the movies, and theaters, and tobacco. A smart figurer could compile a startling array of statistics as to each that they were a menace to morals and furnished a broad highway of ruin. If regulation and not prohibition is the proper treatment for those enterprises, why not for the race tracks also? "There is another fact to be considered, and that is that legislation such as is proposed here in all probability would not put an end to race track betting. New Yorks experience has shown that. There the anti-betting law lias simply created racing bootleggers and added to the pleasure of betting the pleasure of secret evasion of the law. With it here we should simply have another largely unenforceable law, with the added contempt for all law which such a situation breeds and the very great evil of which is apparent to all thoughtful men. •From this statement of both sides of the case we think that one thing is apparent, and that is that the proposed law is not one to get excited over and to put thiough on an emotional impulse without considering the conseijueiices. If there were a plain evil to be corrected and the suggested Measure would certainly correct it. then it would be wholly improper: for instance, to take into con-sitleralion the revenue which the state gets from the race tracks. In the circumstances that factor in the situation should certainly be duly weighed by the legislator*. Ii would be foolish to give up this revenue if t he state thereby should be Hone the belter for it. morally or otherwise. ••The Suns ma fined opinion on this subject is that, in view of all the circumstances, it would be better to try regulation a while longer instead of galas heedlessly into prohibition. Some years ago it expressed a preference for only one or two tracks in the state. That would enable the slate commission to keep a better hold aa the situation and weald lead to lessen some of the real evils that accompany the present system." *

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