Slots enforcement: too much government

November 30, 2012

State law enforcement officials rocked the state's veterans' ranks recently.

Within a few days of Veterans Day, American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and similar nonprofit or­ganizations received letters telling them to shut down their slot machine operations or face le­gal consequences – including loss of liquor li­censes.

We're not talking about full-scale casino op­erations. Rather, a number of the posts around the state - including local posts - host a few vendor-supplied slot machines providing en­tertainment for the patrons and, most impor­tantly, a reliable source of money to sustain post operations. Money raised from slot ma­chines also funds charity work including schol­arships and outreach programs for veterans in need.

Technically, the slot machines are illegal, but we all know there are many laws on the books that are enforced only as needed. Where there is little strong evidence that the machines are creating real problems, the benefits supported by these machines justify placing them in law enforcement's look-the-other-way category. Af­ter all, by supporting its casinos, Delaware has already affirmed the communal good coming from gambling revenues outweighs individual gambling problems.

Gov. Jack Markell would be violating his oath of office if he were to instruct state police to ig­nore laws still on the books. But he could cer­tainly make it clear that it's not a priority of his office to see police spending scarce resources on enforcement action that ends up doing more harm than good. If there are significant abuses in isolated locations, the law can be used to clean up those problems, but not every affected organization should be penalized for the abuses of a few.

If those in charge feel a whole, new regulato­ry mechanism needs to be established to ad­dress an apparently minor problem, then the process should begin immediately - starting with action in the special Senate session slated for next week. In the meantime, as 14th District Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf – himself a retired state police officer – has suggested, state enforce­ment officials should back off their misguided directive and quit jeopardizing organizations that ask for little and give much.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.