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    Parris N. Glendening
    Photo of Glendening links to Voters' Guide. Glendening speaks to audience of Asian-Americans at Richland Chinese Restaurant in Rockville. (Andrew Cutraro - For

    Glendening shared in writing his opinions on income taxes, schools, traffic, crime, lobbyists and stadium deals.
    By John P. Martin Writer
    Thursday, August 20, 1998

    Here’s a decent bet: Slot machines in Maryland will be an election issue this year.

    Why? Because the debate over expanded gambling in the state – specifically through the introduction of racetrack slots – has cropped up every year since Gov. Parris N. Glendening took office.

    The controversy over slots and their impact is neither new nor limited to Maryland. As State Sen. Arthur Dornan (D-Prince George’s) predicted, the issue of slot machine gambling “is going to come back and come back and come back.”

    Who wants slot machines in Maryland?
    Support generally comes from three camps. Representatives of the state’s racetrack industry argue they need slot machines to compete with tracks in neighboring Delaware and West Virginia, where gaming machines are allowed. One plan suggested 9,000 machines at Maryland’s four tracks would stir $100 million in revenue for the industry, and $20 million for the local taxing authorities.

    Ellen R. Sauerbrey
    Photo of Sauerbrey links to Voters' Guide. Sauerbrey and some of her supporters greet football fans before the college game. (Andrew Cutraro -

    Sauerbrey shared in writing her opinions on income tax, schools, traffic, crime, lobbyists and stadium deals.
    Some public officials have heralded slots as a way to save the state’s historic racing industry – and its 17,000 jobs – and to generate money for education. And casino developers see slots as their best chance to ease the state toward accepting casinos.

    Who opposes slots?
    Glendening has become the most notable critic, contending that gambling is an ill-fated method of funding government, likely to cause more problems than solutions. He argued the introduction of slots is a backhanded attempt to bring full-scale casinos to Maryland. With them, he says, will be higher crime, lower-paying jobs and blight.

    When did the proposals emerge?
    Maryland began taking a serious look at expanded gambling in the early 1990s, as the economy struggled and other states turned to gaming to rescue their finances. In 1992, Maryland legislators approved off-track betting; a year later, they backed gambling on international cruise ships leaving from Baltimore.

    In the 1994 gubernatorial campaign, neither Glendening nor Republican nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey said they would rule out more gambling in the state, if elected. The issue took on new life after Delaware’s racetracks, which draw thousands of Marylanders each year, introduced slots in December 1995.

    What's the history of Maryland gambling?
    Southern Maryland once was known as Little Nevada, because of the use of slot machines there. But the legislature outlawed them in 1968, after concerns about corruption associated with the gaming industry.

    In the '70s, the state established its lottery and approved “charity casinos” for non-profit organizations. Prince George’s County, where Glendening once served as county executive, was home to 16 twice-a-week casinos that as recently as 1995 grossed $26 million in revenues, millions in taxes, and helped pay for fire equipment and social programs.

    The charity casinos were closed last year, after allegations that operators were skimming profits. Glendening backed the move.

    Has the governor changed his stance?
    Some think so. After taking office in 1995, Glendening formed a task force to study the viability of casino gambling in the state. He later ruled out casinos, but said he would consider slot machines.

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    In July 1996, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, a fellow Democrat, announced that Glendening had agreed to support a proposal to use slot machines to generate money for the city’s troubled schools. At the same time, State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George’s) said the governor seemed in a meeting to be receptive to slots.

    But Glendening denied he had agreed to any proposal. He said he was “philosophically opposed” to slots at tracks but would consider them with evidence the horse racing industry was “being negatively affected by slot machines at racetracks in nearbly states.”

    Two weeks later, Glendening clarified his position again. “No bill that authorizes slots will pass my desk,” he announced. “I am locking the door and throwing away the key. “

    What was the political fallout?
    Glendening lost the support of Schmoke, a key Democrat, and gave fuel to those who questioned his credibility. He also gave rise to an unusual primary challenge for a sitting governor.

    Two primary election candidates, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and former Redskin player Ray Schoenke, supported using racetrack slots to fund education. Rehrmann won the backing of Schmoke and another former Glendening ally, Prince George’s County Executive Wayne K. Curry.

    But by August, both candidates had withdrawn from the race.

    The Governor Gauge
    Photo of Sauerbrey and Glendening linked to Voters' Guide.
    Sauerbrey, Glendening face each other at October debate. (AP Photo)
    Measure the Candidates
    Test which candidate shares your views in this interactive feature.

    Have the slots been profitable elsewhere?
    From their inception through June 1998, Delaware’s slots generated more than $685 million in profit, according to lottery officials there. Of that, $344 million went to the racetrack commission, $76 million to race purses, $81 million to the machine vendors and $182.6 million to the state’s general fund.

    The numbers have spawned similar proposals in states including New Mexico, Kansas, New Hampshire and Louisiana.

    How does the public feel?
    In Maryland, reaction seems divided, but the pro-slots faction has been growing. A February 1996 poll by Mason Dixon Political/Media Research found 60 percent of the respondents opposed slots at racetracks, 26 percent favored them and 14 percent were undecided. A January 1998 poll by the same company showed the public evenly split.

    By June, a Washington Post poll concluded 54 percent of respondents backed slots and 42 percent opposed them. But the slot opponents are twice as likely as supporters to vote based on their stance.

    What comes next in the battle for slots?
    Sauerbrey, the likely GOP nominee, has yet to stake a clear position on slots, so she could bring it up during the fall campaign. Glendening recently proposed new state funding for the racetracks to appease his detractors there.

    And some believe the casino and racetrack lobbyists might ignore the governor’s race and turn their sights to legislative races. With enough supporters in the Assembly, they could override any governor’s veto.

    Meanwhile, the tracks have begun considering other options to lure bettors. This fall, Laurel and Pimlico will be among nine tracks broadcasting races on a new cable gaming network that will allow viewers to place bets by pushing a button on their television remote control.

    How do I learn more?
    Read the latest election coverage from The Washington Post.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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