Slots enforcement: too much government
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.