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Vice is Nice

Posted 11/16/2005

I am writing to thank Russ Smith for his Nov. 9 column, “Vice Dos and Don’ts” (Right Field). He was the only member of your staff to mention the Nov. 4 bust-up of the Owl’s Nest, a downtown poker club. I agree with many of his salient points, that “Gambling . . . sticks in the craw of media elites,” and “you’d think the cops would have more threatening congregations of lawbreakers to ‘swarm’ than the 80 poker players busted by Baltimore City police in that raid.”

However, I have to disagree with his analysis of why this story has received such attention from The Sun and other major news organizations. Like it or not, the fact that the Baltimore Police Department is beginning to enforce the archaic gambling laws in Maryland is of more direct importance to a large and growing number of Maryland citizens than the riots in France. More and more people of all ages are participating in poker games around the state, in homes and in semilegal “charitable” clubs, and we’d like to know if the police are going to start arresting us for being part of the fad. Unlike in other states with similar laws (like New York and Virginia), every person playing poker for money here is breaking the law, even in your grandmother’s dollar-ante game! So far, the police around the state have refrained from arresting or citing players, preferring to focus on the establishment running the games. This raid, as noted in The Sun, was the biggest gambling bust since the 1930s, when surely they were just as concerned about illegal hooch as they were games of chance. Mr. Smith must see why this was front-page material.

For once, The Sun got their priorities straight about whose interests they should serve—their reports, including the most recent story indicating that all charges against the individual players have been dropped due to a police error, have revealed a little of the absurdity of this raid and the accompanying state gambling statutes. There is little of the usual hand-wringing about compulsive behavior and degenerate society that Mr. Smith points out in other publications’ articles, or that often comes along with Sun stories concerning slots.

Finally, I would like to urge all of your readers to write to their local state representatives to ask them to decriminalize poker. It may not generate as much revenue as other forms of legalized gambling, but unlike the other games, poker is a skill-based competition that should be no more be criminalized than golf or pool. Large-scale arrests like the one profiled in the Nov. 4 Sun should prompt our legislature to change the unjust laws that threaten Maryland citizens’ liberty and finances as they pursue a harmless pastime whose time for legality has come.

Peter Heyneman

Les is Less

So WCBM-AM’s general manager says that Les Kinsolving doesn’t insult his audience (“Les Is More,” Nov.9).

Well I have been insulted every time he spews out his anti-gay hatred and compares consensual adult behavior to sex with animals. Mr. Kinsolving’s bigotry has reinforced the hate already out there, and I am sure it has contributed to gay-bashing, depression, parental abuse, and suicide. Just think about it: Redneck Dad hears preacher Les and tries to beat the homo out of his son.

Or how about this: Queer guy is afraid to have a relationship because of ridicule or harassment and has quickie encounters, resulting in AIDS. If queer guy had been allowed an open, loving relationship, that would have been less likely to happen. Lester is not cute and cuddly. He foams at the mouth like Zell Miller. I’m sure that George Wallace and that other famous Lester—Maddox—could be charming in private while shouting “n______” to rile up the crowd. Well, gay people see Lester in that light. I hope he reflects on the damage he has done and the hurt he has caused with his brand of “Christianity.” I know, because I have been physically and mentally damaged by people of his ilk.

Frank Fletcher

Michael Stooge

My common sense informs me that if Michael Steele really wanted to help his race he would have done so before now (Political Animal, Nov. 2). Is it logical to shun real opportunities to help black people, then be appointed to a hypocritical position such as lieutenant governor? Steele is little more than a first-class stooge for the Ehrlich administration.

Leo A. Williams

Correction: Last week’s story on Les Kinsolving (“Les Is More,” Nov. 9) misreported his fellow WCBM-AM talker Tom Marr’s timeslot; Marr’s show is broadcast every weekday from 9 a.m. to noon. City Paper regrets the error.

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