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Slot foes must identify other funding sources

April 06, 2007

Opponents of legalizing slot machines in Maryland are pointing to taped conversations with former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell Sr. as evidence that legalizing slot machines would lead to casinos all over the state.

Thursday's edition of The (Baltimore) Sun reported that the FBI recorded Bromwell back in 2001, before he left the state senate.

At the time, he chaired the Senate Finance Committee, which Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller had assigned to oversee gambling legislation.

The Sun reported that Bromwell was taped while bragging that once slots came in, there would be off-track betting locations all over the state as well as full-blown casinos in Baltimore, Owings Mills and Cambridge.

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House Speaker Michael Busch said Bromwell's remarks will reinvigorate opponents of slots.

We wish them well, but also wish they would answer these questions:

With the state facing a projected deficit of $1.4 million, where will the state get the money? Gov. Martin O'Malley is chasing down those oft-mentioned villains, fraud and waste, but finding $1 billion worth will be tough.

What about Maryland's horse-racing industry? Magna Corp., which owns Pimlico where the Preakness is run every year, is having financial difficulties because it can't afford the purses that states such as Delaware and West Virginia can.

In addition to the estimated 20,000 jobs that racing provides, it also gives owners of farms an incentive to use them for something other than housing developments. A 2005 report to the General Assembly put the amount of land preserved by horse breeders at 200,000 acres.

And then there is Pennsylvania, where slots are just beginning to send revenue to the state to, among other things, help reduce property taxes.

It took Pennsylvania more than two years to get to this point. We recommend that if Busch and company have another way to raise the money needed, that they tell voters what it is.

And if it's raising taxes, then ask Marylanders whether they would rather see their taxes go up, or have slot machines installed at Maryland's horse tracks.

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