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Munson acts to protect tip jar program

February 20, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

At the request of a local lawmaker, the Maryland General Assembly committee reviewing slot machine legislation moved Thursday to protect Washington County's tip jar gambling program.

An amendment approved by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee would spell out that other forms of legal gambling such as tip jars would not be affected if the state opens its doors to slots.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, proposed the amendment as a member of the committee.

The committee briefly debated that and minor points in the legislation Thursday, but put off discussing the meat of the bill until early next week.

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Lawmakers got bogged down by a committee proposal to add Ocean Downs racetrack, near Ocean City, Md., to the list of four other tracks to get slots.

Republicans decided Thursday to withdraw their support for the bill unless Ocean Downs is removed from the proposal.

"People want to vote for slots but we're gonna hang together," Minority Leader Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Eastern Shore, said Thursday.

Ocean City Mayor James N. Mathias Jr. has said local residents don't want gambling near the beach resort town. Gov. Robert Ehrlich supports him.

Slots foe Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. said the addition of Ocean Downs could result in the demise of a proposed track in Allegany County just across the Washington County border.

Myers said Ocean Downs owner William Rickman Jr. told him he would not build the Allegany track if he could have slots at the harness track.

The committee proposed a major overhaul of Ehrlich's slot machine bill Wednesday.

In addition to adding Ocean Downs, the revised bill would add a third off-track slots emporium in the state. Locations of all three would be decided by a citizens' commission based on what would bring in the most money for the state.

Slots opponent Del. Peter Franchot, D-Montgomery, derided the proposed changes Thursday.

Franchot said 40 communities in the state, including Hagerstown and Williamsport, are under consideration for slots. He cited a Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development report.

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