Maryland slot study begins

July 21, 2003

Forget the money and just study the issue, Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch told a committee that will study the issue of slot machines in Maryland.

Easier said than done, Mr. Speaker. Slots are only getting serious consideration now because Maryland is facing a large budget deficit - a deficit which gambling revenue could help cover.

The key for Washington County will be preventing slots from harming tip jar revenues that go to local charitable activities and the county's fire/rescue companies.

The study will be done by the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Del. Sheila Hixson, D- Montgomery.

It will meet for the first time August 19 and hold public hearings across the state in September and October. Then the committee will meet in work sessions until November.


That's not a lot of time, but there are plenty of models out there, which means that Maryland need not try to invent an entirely new system.

Maryland's neighbor, West Virginia, has tied its legalization of slot machines to the state's horse tracks and Pennsylvania seems ready to do so, too.

But a $200,000 contribution by a Maryland track owner to a national fund directed by Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller has provided ammunition for legislators who feel the tracks want too big a cut for agreeing to install slots.

But consider the fact that using the tracks would bolster Maryland horse racing, which lags behind other states which use slot revenue to boost purses. And it would spare the state the "not in my neighborhood" battles that would be fought if other locations were chosen.

The Pimlico track in Baltimore, instead of once-a-year glory when the Preakness is run, could become a tourism draw.

The committee may come to other conclusions. As long as they don't include slots at off-track betting parlors here, Washington County can probably live with them.

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