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Slot support growing

February 26, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Support for slot machines is building among Washington County lawmakers.

While nearly all the lawmakers have reservations about expanding gambling, half now say they see little choice but to vote for installing slots at four Maryland racetracks.

"The fundamental fact remains, the dichotomy is it's slots or taxes or Draconian cuts," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich has proposed a $22.9 billion state budget balanced with the help of slot profits.

Given the choices, some local lawmakers said their constituents would rather see slots.

"They don't want their taxes raised and that's understandable. All you have to do is look at the price of gas," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, and Del. Richard Weldon, R-Frederick/Washington, said they support the concept of slots.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, remains the staunchest local slots opponent.

Myers campaigned against slot machines at a racetrack proposed for Allegany County, not far from the Washington County border.

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Del. John. P. Donoghue, D-Washington, is calling for a referendum, which would delay the debate for a year and slow Ehrlich's plan to use $395 million from slot machine licensing fees and revenues to help fix the state's budget deficit next year.

Ehrlich testified for his plan at a House of Delegates hearing Tuesday.

His administration has not yet decided how to divide the profits between the state, tracks and local governments where the tracks are located.

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