Sen. Frederick Malkus (D-Dorchester) again has taken up his fight to make slot machines legal in most of the Eastern Shore -- legislation that was vetoed by Gov. Harry Hughes last year.
The Senate, by a 23-to-21 vote, fell six votes short of overriding Hughes' veto during special session in October.
The bill, sponsored by Malkus and Sen. Joseph Long (D-Wicomico), would allow nonprofit clubs and fraternal organizations to operate up to five slot machines as long as they are licensed by the county in which they are located. At least 50 percent of the proceeds would have to go toward charitable purposes.
Malkus said yesterday that Hughes should look more favorably on the bill this year because the governor, who historically has stated his opposition to legalized gambling, is now proposing three instant lottery games to get revenue for a new sports authority and help build a stadium.
"If the governor will have three separate lotteries to take care of the stadium, I think it's about overdue to get this bill passed when it will help Little League clubs," Malkus said.
Gubernatorial spokesman Norm Silverstein said lotteries were approved by Marylanders in a referendum years ago, and Malkus' argument "is like comparing apples to oranges."
"The instant lotteries are nothing new and would be a limited proposal. The slots could open up the way to casino-type gambling," Silverstein added.
Malkus and Long argue that the legislation seeks to make legal what has been done illegally for the last 18 years and that current law that allows fraternal groups to hold games of chance for charitable purposes should not outlaw the use of slots as a revenue source.
The one-armed bandits were declared illegal in the 1960s, but clubs continued operating the slots until last year when state police began raiding meeting halls and confiscating the machines.
The legislation would apply to eight Eastern Shore counties, but not to Worcester, where Ocean City is located.