|dc.description.abstract||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
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
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