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A lesson from Pennsylvania

November 14, 2006

Maryland officials looking toward the 2007 General Assembly session should also take a gander at what is happening with slot-machine gambling in Pennsylvania.

When Maryland's new Democratic governor finds the state needs the cash slots could provide, he should pay attention to the lessons offered by the Pennsylvania experience.

They include:

· The process will take years to get up and running. This week applicants for gaming licenses travel to Harrisburg to make their final pitches to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

That means that the state has not yet decided who will get the licenses, even though a bill legalizing slots was passed in 2004.

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And even if licensees were chosen tomorrow, the slots parlors still must be built.

· Pennsylvania officiasl want the revenue and the economic development they believe slots will bring. But not everyone shares their enthusiasm. Residents of some neighborhoods that might be slot-parlor sites have already gone to court, asking for judicial relief.

The lesson here is that it will be a lot easier to site gambling facilities at the horsetracks, where gambling already exists.

License applicants are already making promises to do more charitable giving than the law requires. They're not doing that out of the goodness of their hearts, but because if they are successful, they will make a great deal of money. Pennsylvania - and Maryland - should get such folks to share as much as possible with the public.

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