Area lawmakers slam slots

February 03, 1998


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - A bid by a powerful Maryland legislator to legalize slot machine gambling in Western Maryland and other parts of the state isn't drawing support from Washington County lawmakers.

Several county legislators said Tuesday they either oppose the plan in particular or the idea of slot machines in general.

"I don't support it at all," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings, D-Baltimore City, who chairs the influential House Appropriations Committee this week proposed a plan to amend the state constitution to permit slots if voters want them.

The machines would be placed at horse tracks and at seven other locations statewide, including one 2,000-machine facility in Washington, Allegany or Garrett county. Proceeds from the slots would go to schools and to help the state's ailing horse racing industry.


Some lawmakers said slot dollars could be accompanied by crime, drugs and other social ills.

"I don't want it in Washington County. That's my bottom line," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

The county already permits some types of gambling, including tip jars, bingo and the state lottery.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said slot machine gaming and a casino environment could increase the opportunity for compulsive gambling in the community.

He and others also said money that would be spent on slots could come from people who would otherwise play tip jars, which are used to fund charities, fire companies and other nonprofit groups.

"That money is going to go into somebody else's pockets. It's not going to go to fire companies, it's not going to go to charities," Munson said.

Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, said it's difficult to argue against something that puts the matter in voters' hands, but she questioned the strategy of using slots to pay for needed services.

"If we have to depend on gambling for everything we want in the state of Maryland, that's not a good situation," she said.

Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, said he doesn't like the idea of any referendum.

"I think the voter decides (on issues like this) when he or she votes for me or doesn't vote for me," he said.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has vowed to veto any slots bill, but because Rawlings' plan is for a constitutional amendment, it would not require the governor's signature. It would, however, require a three-fifths majority from both houses of the General Assembly.

For that reason, several lawmakers said the bill faces and uphill battle.

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