Time for Maryland to act

July 06, 2004

Maryland's elected officials, who've been fighting for two years over whether or not to legalize slot machines, on Monday got what state Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller called a "wake-up call."

Miller's alarm clark rang, so to speak, when Pennsylvania's legislature passed a bill to place 61,000 slot machines in 14 locations around the state. Miller predicted a special session would be held in August - and that it would pass a slots bill.

But that idea doesn't sit well with House Speaker Michael Busch, who'd rather have a referendum on slots this coming November.

The most-recent plan for slots - and there have been a bunch of them - would put 15,500 slot machines at three horse tracks and three other non-track locations. Gov. Robert Erhlich says the slots would eventually generate $800 million a year for improvements in the state's schools.


In this situation, several things seem clear:

  • The Maryland General Assembly guaranteed funding for the educational improvements recommended by the Thornton Commission, even as it lowered state income taxes.

  • The state's horse-racing industry needs help, not only because of the jobs it provides at the tracks, but because it encourages preservation of open space.

  • Gov. Ehrlich was elected on a platform that promised to legalize slots and hold down taxes.

It may not be possible to do both, but the legislature, specifically Speaker Busch, should let Ehrlich try, because he was elected by all the state's voters.

That referendum Busch seeks has already been held and Ehrlich won. We share Busch's concern about gambling addicts - his father was one - which is why we favor the safeguards listed in the editorial above this one. It's time to move ahead with the slots bill.

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