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Muldowney says lawmakers fear gaming issue

February 05, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County Gaming Commission member Paul Muldowney verbally lashed out at members of the county's legislative delegation Wednesday, saying they are scared to make needed changes to the tip jar gambling law.

"You can use all kinds of bogus reasons not to address this problem now," an angry Muldowney said during the weekly delegation meeting.

During a brief exchange with Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, Muldowney made his case for making two changes to the gaming law - including one to lift that law's 1999 expiration date. Muldowney accused the lawmakers of being afraid to revisit the politically sensitive issue of gambling.

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Donoghue disagreed.

"I don't think we're scared to put a bill in, so I don't think we're offering bogus reasons," said Donoghue, delegation chairman.

Delegation members agreed last month not to pursue gaming legislation, saying Gov. Parris N. Glendening was likely to veto any new gambling legislation. They also said there was legislative pressure against gambling in the General Assembly.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said on Wednesday that a local bill also could be doomed if it became a "Christmas tree," upon which other state gaming legislation could hang.

Muldowney, a former member of the House of Delegates, disagreed.

"To use that as some kind of reason not put in legislation is bogus," Muldowney said.

Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann said the governor's "no casinos, no slots, no exceptions" policy does not include vetoing legislation regulating existing legalized gambling, such as bingo or tip jars.

"That is not affected by this," Feldmann said.

When told of Glendening's position, Donoghue said, "I want that in writing."

The delegation could meet again this week to discuss possible gaming legislation.

One thing upon which the delegation and Muldowney agree is that the law passed last year is working. Throughout the county, bars and private clubs are required to make charitable contributions from their gambling proceeds as regulated by the gaming commission.

But Muldowney and members of the County Commissioners want the expiration date, commonly referred to as its "sunset," eliminated so there is no threat of the law being repealed automatically. The law expires July 1, 1999.

Muldowney argued the delegation needs to act now, because anything can happen in future years to thwart attempts to amend the law.

"To postpone the deletion of the sunset provision is a cowardly act that (shows) you don't want to deal with the law," he told the delegation.

Muldowney and the County Commissioners also asked for elimination of a part of the law that prohibits officers in nonprofit clubs from serving on the gaming commission.

The provision was intended to bar potential conflicts of interest, but Muldowney said that keeps many qualified people from serving.

Sue Tuckwell, chairwoman of the gaming commission, said that while Muldowney was speaking for himself and was not officially representing the panel, it does agree with the two proposed amendments.

The gaming commission had planned to formally propose those changes, and another amendment to lengthen the terms of gaming commission members. The effort was derailed when commission members heard the delegation would not pursue the issue.

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