Md. legislators' slots hearings come to region

November 05, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

Washington County residents will get a chance to voice their opinions about slot machines to state lawmakers today in Cumberland, Md.

The public hearing starts at 2 p.m. in the auditorium at Allegany College before the House Ways and Means Committee.

The committee has crisscrossed the state gathering citizen comments. Today's hearing is the first and only scheduled on the issue in Western Maryland.

Two local lawmakers serve on the committee, Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, and Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington.

McKee said most people who commented so far have told the committee they support slots at racetracks.

The committee might get a different message in Allegany County, where residents have fought construction of a new track in Little Orleans.


House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, last year almost single-handedly defeated slots legislation, including a proposal to allow slot machines at that track.

Busch instructed the committee to study the issue for the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.

Busch told the committee to "go where the testimony takes us," in crafting legislation, but in reality legislative leaders will work out the details.

"I think we're going to end up where Speaker Busch wants us to be," McKee said.

Those who favor slots say they recognize that the state will be faced with raising taxes or making deeper budget cuts unless slots are legalized as a revenue source, McKee said.

Pennsylvania is on the verge of legalizing slot machines at racetracks, which would put Maryland tracks at the same disadvantage they now experience with West Virginia and Delaware, he said.

Opponents said they object to slots based on moral or religious grounds. Others oppose them near their homes, McKee said.

While McKee supports legalization of slots, Myers does not.

To get to Allegany College, take Interstate 70 west to Hancock, take left-hand exit to Interstate 68 west, continue west approximately 35 miles to the Willowbrook Road exit (Exit 44). Turn left onto Willowbrook Road and go one mile to campus, which will be on the left.

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