The disclosure by The Annapolis Capital last week that the officers in charge of the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s gambling investigations are moonlighting as security guards for the developer building the slots casino at Arundel Mills raises disturbing questions about government ethics and public policy.
Fortunately, there are very easy answers to these questions. The policy that allows such an arrangement is absurd and should be rescinded immediately.
The cozy arrangement revealed by The Capital shows that the captain and lieutenant of the vice unit are among 18 county police officers on the payroll of The Cordish Cos., which will operate the state’s largest gambling facility.
“Having people who regulate gambling working for a casino operator is just mind-boggling,” Christopher S. Rizek, who headed the Anne Arundel County Ethics Commission from 2004 to 2008, told The Capital.
And yet county Police Chief James Teare Sr. and two members of the County Council said they have no problem with the arrangement. The chief noted that the casino hasn’t opened yet, and the police are merely guarding a parking lot at the moment.
This naïve, head-in-the-sand attitude is exactly what we don’t need as we enter an era of state-sanctioned gambling in Maryland. As more casinos open their doors and hundreds of millions of dollars begin to flow through the system, state and local governments must use their regulatory authority to protect the public interest and the integrity of the process.
A key component of exercising that regulatory responsibility wisely and well is preventing even the appearance of a conflict of interest among those who oversee casino operations in any way.
Then and only then can members of the public have a modicum of confidence in the games of chance they choose to play.