In Maryland, where politics makes the world go around, the state lottery commission has never been immune to politics. Its chairman is George P. Mahoney, the state's best-known political spoiler. Its executive director is Stanley S. Fine, a former aide to Gov. Marvin Mandel. The advertising agency that handles the lottery's $1-million-a-year promotion account is the same one Mandel used when he ran for office.
Yesterday, lottery commission chairman Mohoney, a 12-time loser in bids for high state office, found himself faced with a new charge: that the commission's selection of lucrative "Numbers Game" outlets had become politicized.
At a press conference called to announce "the four-year success story of the lottery," Mahoney dismissed the charge as unfounded. "I vehemently deny any of that stuff," he said later in an interview. "Politics does not rate at all around here. Anyone who gets a numbers game terminal deserves it."
The charge was first raised in a story in the Baltimore Sun Sunday. The article alleged the commission had "doled out dozens of lucrative daily numbers game outlets to political figures, relatives of state legislators and businessmen with political connections" in the Baltimore area.
It said numbers game machines had been given out to relatives of four prominent Baltimore legislators and friends, relatives and business-associates of three powerful Baltimore political figures: Irvin Kovens, Mandel's chief fund raiser; William L. (Little Willie) Adams, one of the city's most powerful behind-the-scenese black politicians; and Joseph J. Etaszak, an East Baltimore political boss.
Mahoney, whose entry into the 1966 governor's race and the 1968 and 1970 Senate races helped throw elections to Republicans, acknowledged that outlets mentioned in the article had indeed been granted.
But he maintained that no influence peddling was involved. "There's no politics in the commission," he declared. "There never has been any. We don't play politics here."
The controversy came as figures compiled by the commission showed that the lottery had paid out $110 million in prize money and contributed more than $100 million into state coffers the last four years. The lottery, Mahoney said, "has grown and become an overwhelming success in the eyes of the citizens of the state."
The numbers game, which began last July, has become the commission's most lucrative venture with weekly gross sales of more than $4 million, he said.
Numbers tickets are sold at 500 locations in the state. Each is supplied with a shiny state-owned machine, a computer terminal about the size of a small cash register, that is connected to a central computer in Baltimore County. Criteria used in choosing the locations supposedly are geography and the amount of sales the locations can generate.
The commission's stated policy is to award the outlets, which produce up to $1,000 a week in commissions, to the same grocery stores, drug stores and taverns that had long sold the less lucrative weekly lottery tickets.
But the Baltimore Sun reported that the outlets have become a "rich new source of patronage." A review of 150 outlets chosen in the Baltimore area during recent months, it said, disclosed that almost one-third had business, personal or political ties to commission members or their political patrons.
It said relatives of the following state legislators have been granted outlets: State Sen. Harry J. McGuirk, and Delegates American Joe Miedusiowski, Edward J. Dabrowski and George J. Santoni, all of Baltimore. In addition, Del. Pinkney A. Howell's Hilton Court Liquors has an outlet as does Lenny Moore's Sportsman's Lounge, a West Baltimore night spot managed by Robert E. Haynes, a member of the five-member commission.
Commission Chairman Mahoney said he does receive frequent requests from politicians in the Baltimore area for outlets, but they are handled the same as requests from other individuals by the commission's marketing staff, which checks out each applicant's financial situation and location.
"There's nothing in the law that would deny an outlet to any legitimate businessman whether he's a politician or not," he said.He added later that 98 per cent of the terminals are awarded to people "with no influence" and that lottery officials had to persuade former State Sen. Staszak, who appeared at the press conference, to apply for an outlet at a popular bar run by his daughter and son-in-law.
Mahoney said he had never received a request from any political figure in the Washington suburbs. "But now they know about it I'll probably start hearing from them," he added.