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Maybe next time

Lawmakers should wait for calmer times before expanding gambling

With all the judgment of a bleary-eyed casino denizen in the wee hours of the morning, lawmakers in Salem are eyeing slot machines as one solution to their financial woes. They should call it a night before they do something they'll regret later.

The idea of adding video slots to the state's array of gambling opportunities isn't new. Lottery retailers have been clamoring for the lucrative machines since Indian casinos set up shop across the state.

If they can offer slots, why can't we, the retailers ask. The Lottery Commission has long supported the expansion as well, but was stymied by the opposition of former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who opposed state-sponsored gambling on principle.

Now lawmakers, still facing a &

36;2 billion shortfall in the biennial budget, have heard the call and are seriously considering adding the games, which could raise as much as &

36;90 million over the two-year period.

There may be good reason to consider the move. It would raise a sizable chunk of change without raising taxes ' anathema to the Republicans in control of the House ' and it would be easy, requiring only a reprogramming of the state's 9,000 existing video poker terminals.

— There are also good arguments against the idea.

Gambling may be harmless recreation for those who can afford it and who can walk away when they're losing. But it can be devastating for those who become addicted to the pastime. And opponents say state-sponsored gambling attracts too many Oregonians who are least able to afford it.

Our concern is the timing. Just as — a.m. is not a good time to assess the odds and decide to keep playing, the 11th hour of a legislative session is not the time to go for the easy money ' easy because it's not raising taxes or cutting essential services ' without considering the drawbacks.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski said during last year's campaign that he opposed expanding the lottery and wished the state could become less dependent on gambling revenue. Now he's willing to reconsider.

We urge the governor and the Legislature to wait for the sober light of day before taking this step. We suspect many a gambler who put his last dollar into a slot machine hoping to recoup his losses would echo that sentiment.

Splash with care

Oh, how tempting Vogel Plaza's fountains are in summer's heat. They're free and easy to get into; they call to would-be fountain-runners on hot days.

But here's a cruel twist: They're not meant for people.

That's right. When parks workers for the city of Medford turn on the fountains today or Wednesday, they hope water lovers will bear in mind that the fountains could be an unhealthy place to play ' and that fountain water definitely shouldn't be consumed.

The fountains recycle water through an underground system that treats it with chemicals, but not as thoroughly, say, as in a swimming pool. Above ground, people walk and ride bikes across the flat fountain surface, introducing contamination to the system. Parks officials say they have no way to control the system enough to meet state health standards for swimmers or to make the water safe to consume.

Safer choices for the immersion-inclined: Garfield Park in Ashland, where a water park attracts people from across the valley, or one of the city of Medford's outside pools. A pool schedule is available on the city Web site at .