Washington Co. delegation kills tip-jar bill

February 06, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- By a split vote, Washington County's General Assembly delegation on Wednesday killed an effort to add a state level of regulation to the county's ban on electronic tip jars.

The bill was prompted by concern from Washington County Gaming Director James B. Hovis that gaming interests would try to bring in slot-machine-style tip jars, whose legality have been questioned.

"It's our desire to protect the integrity of Washington County gaming," Hovis told the delegation.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, strongly supported the proposed bill, but others called it unnecessary since the county already bans slot-style electronic machines.

The delegation voted 5-2 against filing the bill. Munson and Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, voted yes.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who has pledged to skip delegation meetings this session, did not attend. He later said he spoke at a statewide library event instead.


Washington County has its own regulation prohibiting tip-jar machines that dispense randomly generated numbers.

However, a state law for Washington County on top of that regulation would better protect the county against a possible lawsuit if anyone challenged the ban, Hovis said.

The bill, as drafted, set standards for how tip jars could be designed and could dispense tickets. It would have banned machines with random-number generators and shufflers or if they were remotely operated.

Last week, when the discussion first came before the delegation, Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said a state attorney general's office opinion considered the county's existing regulation to be a clear ban.

Opponents of the bill also said it could hurt the county's chances to revamp its gaming operations if slot machines become legal and cut into tip-jar revenues.

Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist for an Arbutus, Md., gaming supplier that does business in Washington County, also urged that the bill be rejected.

Local and state officials are protective of the county's tip-jar system, which distributes millions of dollars to fire and rescue companies and nonprofit organizations.

Still, the delegation rejected a proposal, supported by the Washington County Commissioners, for more protection.

"All of these safeguards are in place and we feel we need another one?" asked Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany

Afterward, Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, one of several county officials who met with the delegation Wednesday, said he was puzzled by the delegation's stance. He said it appeared lawmakers were giving in to a gaming lobbyist's wishes.

However, Bereano later reiterated what he told the delegation last week: His client doesn't plan to push for slot-style machines in Washington County.

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