Md. Slots Money Race No Contest

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 11, 2008

The group leading Maryland's campaign to legalize slot machines said yesterday that it has raised nearly $3.8 million, a figure bolstered by donations from horse-racing and gaming interests that dwarfed funds raised by leading anti-slots groups.

With barely three weeks remaining until next month's referendum, fundraising by the pro-slots group For Maryland For Our Future appeared to be about nine times that of two anti-slots groups, which said they were relying on smaller contributions from far more people.

Still, the pro-slots contributions were far less than many analysts predicted months ago when a campaign blessed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) was launched to bring 15,000 slot machines to locations in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Cecil and Worcester counties and the city of Baltimore.

Marylanders United to Stop Slots, one of two committees formed to oppose the measure, said it had raised $411,053. A representative of the other group, StopSlotsMaryland, said it has focused little on fundraising and would report less than $20,000.

The pro-slots group said it had spent about $1.4 million on radio and television ads and more than $1 million on door-to-door canvassing efforts. Most of the television ads have aired in the Baltimore area. The group said it had about $559,000 in the bank as of Sunday, compared with about $143,000 that Marylanders United to Stop Slots claimed.

"Today's campaign finance reports confirm what we've known all along," said Scott Arceneaux, a senior adviser to Marylanders United to Stop Slots. "The slots referendum is truly a David-versus-Goliath struggle, with the special interests pouring millions of dollars into passing this gambling CEO bailout."

Steve Kearney, a spokesman for the pro-slots group, said a majority of his group's donations came from "in-state horse-related organizations, which should come as no surprise given the industry's very existence is at stake."

Kearney also said his group made no apologies for raising money to counter what he said was misinformation being spread by slots opponents.

Reports were due by midnight yesterday detailing the donations and expenditures of ballot-issue committees on both sides of the slots fight. As of 5 p.m., the Board of Elections had not received any reports and did not plan to make them public until next week.

The pro-slots group said its largest contribution, $2 million, came from the Laurel Racing Association, the company that runs Laurel Park, a horse-racing track in Anne Arundel County that would be eligible for -- but not guaranteed -- a slots license if the measure passes.

The contribution flowed through its Canadian parent company of Magna Entertainment, which owns Laurel Park and Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore.

Another $250,000 was donated to the pro-slots group by the Allegany Racing Association, which is controlled by William Rickman, a Potomac developer. Rickman owns Ocean Downs, an Eastern Shore racetrack that would also be eligible for a slots license if the measure passes.

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