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The Slots Issue in the State of Maryland

More than a year after state voters in Maryland allowed slot machines as an option to overhaul the state's sagging coffers, the effort to bring gaming revenue into the state has hit a block.

Pitching the vote, Maryland's top political brass-from Governor Martin O'Malley to Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett-said that gaming companies would move to the state in droves, paying tens of millions of dollars for gaming licenses and producing a steady stream of gaming revenue once the slot machines are up and running.

Aside from supporting Maryland's Treasury, gaming was supposed to help Maryland's dying horse-racing industry. State officials estimated that the slot machines would be worth $600 million in annual revenue in just a few short years. But a year later, only two gaming licenses have been given out. Not a slot machine lever has been pulled by gamers.

An effort to place slot machines in Anne Arundel County is stalled by a zoning problem. A proposed casino facility in Baltimore is still waiting for the $20 million licensing fees and the needed paperwork. There have been no bids for a casino license in Allegany County in Western Maryland.

Magna Entertainment Corporation, which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park racetracks, botched their slot machine applications and has since filed for bankruptcy. Barbara Knickelbein, a civilian activist who led the opposition to last year's slots referendum, said on November 24th, 2009 that the voters were duped by the slots supporters.

Gov. O'Malley's spokesperson, Shaun Adamec, said that the slots plan has seen a few problems. Adamec said that it is a process that has never been previously undertaken and to some extent, they had to invent as it went along.

But Maryland Senate President Thomas Mike Miller (D-Prince George's County) said that Maryland has to start over on the issue. Miller blamed the state's gaming woes on its critics, who place "crippling changes" into the slots legislation-giving placement power to local zoning officials, forbidding casino groups to offer "entertainment", requiring union contracts and living wages of casino staff and giving Maryland nearly 2/3 of the slot revenues-that "damaged" the effort.

Anne Arundel resident Rob Annicelli, who is leading a local group opposing the plan installation of slot machines at the Arundel Mills mall located south of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airpor, said that political leaders let themselves be blinded by rapacious gaming interests without caring for the negative effects to the residents of the state.


Thursday, 10 December 2009
Kori Woffendin