Slot Machines in Charles County, Maryland: 1910-1968
Shaffer, Susan Hickey
Callcott, George H.
MetadataShow full item record
Psychologists and sociologists have studied gambling for many years, but historians have paid little attention to the subject. This is a study of the impact of gambling, and specificially slot machines, on rural Charles County, Maryland from 1910 to 1968. Slot machines moved up the Potomac River by riverboat, and gradually they spread throughout the county. In July, 1949, when most American communities had eliminated gambling as a source of immorality and crime, the people of Charles County, moving against the tide, voted to license and legalize them. Initially they brought tremendous growth to the area. During the 1950s, U.S. Highway 301 cut through the center of the county and brought with it a strip of tourist courts, restaurants and slot machine emporiums. Charles County also tapped the gambling market in Virginia, where gambling was illegal, by constructing piers out from the Virginia shore into Charles County waters. Despite their loss in the 1949 referendum, however, the antislot machine forces remained vocal. Ministers, newspapers, judges and concerned citizens argued the machines were immoral and crime producers. As a promise to his political supporters Governor Millard Tawes and the anti-slot forces outlawed the machines from the state, effective 1968. Economically, the machines poured new money into the county government, kept taxes low and increased police. Service related industries benefited by supplying casinos and motels. Slot machines created new wealth for many, poverty for others. Socially the industry brought family disruption and petty crime. Politically, it provided the issue for the opposition party, the Democrats, to come to power. Finally, after 58 years, Charles County faced the future without a gambling crutch.