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Panel approves gambling legislation

March 18, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Panel approves gambling legislation

ANNAPOLIS - Two pieces of legislation that would amend Washington County's three-year-old tip jar gambling law are meeting little resistance in the Maryland General Assembly.

The county's legislative delegation won a preliminary victory Monday night when the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve one of the bills, which would remove the current gaming bill's expiration date of July 1, 1999.

"I think it's a good bill to have the regulations in place," said Del. Ann Marie Doory, D-Baltimore, who chairs the House gaming subcommittee.

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Committee approval of local legislation virtually guarantees its passage because of the General Assembly's strong committee format and the courtesy it gives to bills that affect only specific jurisdictions.

The second bill would make numerous changes to the gaming law, the main one being a requirement that fraternal and social clubs funnel all of their required charitable donations from tip jar proceeds through the county Gaming Commission.

The Gaming Commission estimates it will distribute $1.1 million in tip jar proceeds to charity for the budget year that ends June 30. It's estimated that the legislation would increase the agency's distributions next year to about $2.45 million.

Doory said she sees no serious problems with the bill, but because it is more extensive than the first piece of legislation, it requires more review.

Last week Doory raised a concern that the current law could lead to gaming proceeds funding political organizations. But Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, met with Doory Tuesday to assure her that political contributions are not allowed.

"I think it's so complicated, it's hard for the average person . . . to fully understand," said Donoghue, chairman of the county delegation.

Both bills could be approved by the House of Delegates by next week, and would then go to the Senate for consideration.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he had wanted to make one amendment to the bill, which would prohibit the chairman of the Gaming Commission from serving consecutive terms, but he said he won't make the change.

"That issue doesn't warrant tinkering with the bill this year," Munson said.

Munson did reiterate his view that the bill could run into trouble if it were amended to include the expansion of gambling elsewhere in the state. But some lawmakers said while that was possible last year, there has been no talk about such a legislative maneuver this session.

"The climate seems to be entirely different this year than last," said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

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