Bill aims to halt Md. gaming

February 11, 1997


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - A state legislator from Prince George's County, where casino gambling is about to become illegal, is drafting legislation that would ban most charitable gambling, including tip jars, in Maryland.

Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah, a Democrat, said her legislation would ensure consistency in a state where some forms of gambling are permitted but others - like the casino nights in her district - are targeted for extinction.

"You can't protect one part of the state and turn a blind eye to another part of the state," Lawlah said.


Under existing law, casino nights in Prince George's County are set to end in May. Lawlah's legislation, which is expected to be filed this week, would enable casino gambling to continue until 1999, when all forms of charitable gaming, except for bingo, would cease.

If passed, the bill would permit just two kinds of gambling in addition to bingo in Maryland - horse racing and the state lottery.

Local lawmakers said Tuesday they did not believe Lawlah's legislation would have much chance for approval, given the fact that charitable gaming exists in much of the state, from Washington County's tip jars to the Eastern Shore's slot machines.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said Lawlah will have to explain how the charities would compensate for money lost as a result of her legislation.

"You can't do it with bake sales alone," he said.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has vowed to veto any attempt to continue the Prince's George's County casino nights, which he has called "semi-professional." He has said, however, he is not opposed to "community-based" forms of gambling such as tip jars and bingo.

In Washington County, the gaming commission has allocated about $1.3 million in tip jar proceeds to local charities from July 1995 through December 1996. Last year, about $55 million was wagered in the county on paper gambling.

Kathleen Vogt, executive director of the United Way of Washington County, said the $27,000 the agency has received in gaming funds was a welcome addition to the organization's $1.6 million budget. Many of the agencies the United Way serves also receive tip jar money directly, she said.

"It has made a difference in our agencies," she said.

But Vogt, who served on state and local panels that studied gambling, warned that people in the community should rely on direct contributions - not gambling - to fund nonprofit groups.

"We don't want to depend on gaming funds for charitable giving," she said.

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