Odds lengthen for gambling bill

April 02, 1997


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - After being stalled in a Maryland House of Delegates committee for more than a month, legislation to make minor changes to Washington County's tip jar gambling law appears to be facing long odds for passage.

With the end of the legislative session just five days away, several lawmakers concede that the county bill might never be brought to the floor for a vote, amid fears that it would become a vehicle for broader gambling legislation in other parts of the state.

"I'm disappointed because it's such a minor adjustment to already-existing law," said Sue Tuckwell, chairwoman of the Washington County Gaming Commission, the panel that disburses tip jar proceeds to local charities, nonprofit groups and fire companies.


"It's unfortunate, but it's not the end of the world," she added.

Del. Mary Louise Preis, D-Harford, who chairs the House gaming law and regulation subcommittee, said the county bill, along with all other pieces of gambling legislation in the state, could fade away amid the session's closing rush.

"There's so much already going on, and none of the (gambling) bills are earthshaking," Preis said.

The county bill would expand the terms of Gaming Commission members from two to three years and would allow members to serve as officers in nonprofit organizations.

"It's so minor that it shouldn't worry anybody," Tuckwell said of the bill.

But Preis said it is because the bill is so minor that no great harm would result from not passing the legislation. And she said there is a "concern" that any piece of gambling legislation, no matter how minor, could become target for amendments if it were to reach the House floor.

That has become a particularly sensitive issue this year because some Prince George's County, Md., lawmakers have been trying to pass legislation to extend the law that allows casino nights in the county.

"Prince George's County will want to amend anything that smacks of gambling," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who chairs the county's legislative delegation.

In addition to the county legislation, 13 gambling bills have been under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee. None has been approved by the committee. That includes legislation that would make minor changes to Frederick County's gaming law.

But Donoghue said he hasn't given up hope.

"It still is alive," he said.

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