Gaming task force passes state House

March 28, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ and TAMELA BAKER

A bill proposing a task force on gambling in Maryland passed the state House on Saturday, despite Washington County opposition.

Del. Jon S. Cardin, D-Baltimore County, sponsored the bill, which he has said would simply look at gambling.

"Western Maryland has a well-known and good gaming program," Cardin said in an interview three weeks ago. "It's working. But is there adequate oversight?"

Protective of Washington County's tip-jar operation, which benefits nonprofit organizations, local representatives said they're skeptical about gaming task forces.

A task force appointed in 2004 identified Washington County gaming as a revenue source for the state to control.

"The state is going to get its hand into the till," Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said Tuesday.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, worked to add an amendment to the bill before it passed, allowing James B. Hovis, Washington County's gaming office director, to serve on the task force.

Hovis testified against the bill when it was heard this month, saying the county was "very concerned" about the potential of state regulation.


The House passed a final version of the bill on Saturday, 102-32.

The bill now will go before a Senate committee.

Hovis told the county commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday that Cardin's office called to solicit the commissioners' support for the bill.

Hovis recommended that the county remain neutral on the bill, noting his seat on the task force had been secured.

Nonetheless, he told the commissioners that "we have absolutely nothing to gain from this bill."

Hovis said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, was trying to defeat the bill in the Senate.

The commissioners agreed to remain neutral because of Hovis' involvement.

"We would have a stronger voice if we stay at the table," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said.

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