ANNAPOLIS, AUG. 31 -- The Maryland racing industry's plan to enact an intertrack betting system, approved last week in a controversial vote by a legislative committee, suddenly appears to be dead today.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell (D-Kent) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) announced that the committee's 8-to-7 vote to approve the plan was illegal because one committee member was allowed to vote even though he was not at the meeting.

The plan, advocated by Maryland racing magnate Frank De Francis, would have allowed patrons at the Sports Palace at Laurel Race Course to watch races at Pimlico in Baltimore on large-screen televisions and have their bets counted along with those at Pimlico. The six-week experiment was scheduled to begin Sept. 8. De Francis was unavailable for comment.

Mitchell and Miller acknowledged that it was common for members of the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee, which approved the racing regulations last week, to register their votes without attending the meeting. But a review of the law today by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, requested by legislative leaders amid growing controversy over the vote, showed the practice was illegal. The committee acts on requests for emergency regulations submitted by state agencies.

Curran said the law allows for an initial polling of committee members by telephone or in writing to determine whether a public hearing is necessary to consider an emergency regulation, such as the one De Francis and the Maryland Racing Commission requested. However, Curran said that once a public hearing is called, a regulation must be approved "by a majority of members who are present and voting."

Del. Larry Young (D-Baltimore) and Sen. James Simpson (D-Charles), committee cochairmen, counted the vote of Del. Terry Connelly (D-Baltimore County) even though Connelly was not present. Although the decision was questioned by other committee members at the time, both men said it was standard committee practice. With Curran's oral opinion, the vote now stands tied 7 to 7 and thus is defeated.

Legislative leaders said it was unlikely the committee will meet before the scheduled opening of the Pimlico season next week and did not know whether the committee would ever reconsider the vote.

"I would say our actions cause {De Francis} very severe problems," Miller said at a news conference. "But we're not intentionally trying to impede what he's trying to do."

The Racing Commission could still adopt De Francis' proposal without legislative approval, but not before Pimlico's six-week season ends.

A gubernatorial spokesman said that while Gov. William Donald Schaefer favored the proposal, "it's a legislative matter being handled by the legislature."

De Francis' proposal would have been the state's first venture into "simulcasting" and allowing off-track betting on Maryland races. The Racing Commission estimated that it would have increased betting by $4.2 million during Pimlico's season, netted $376,000 for track owners and meant $21,000 more in state revenue.

But the political maneuvering, especially the role of Del. Paul Weisengoff (D-Baltimore) in delivering a $1,000 campaign contribution from one of the track owners to Young, had some legislators worried about the perceived integrity of their institution.

Besides Connelly's vote, several other aspects of the process have been questioned privately by lawmakers, including: Cochairman Young's decision to abstain from voting after returning the campaign contribution from Tom Manfuso, one of the track owners. Young, running for president of the Baltimore City Council, received the check from Weisengoff, an adviser to the campaign of one of Young's rivals and a leading advocate in the General Assembly of the horse racing industry. Weisengoff has said he was doing a favor for his friend, Manfuso. Young's campaign manager said Young returned the check after learning of Manfuso's involvement. Cochairman Simpson's surprising decision to vote for the proposal after he had roundly criticized the proposal earlier in the meeting. But Simpson said he became convinced that an attorney general's opinion gave the industry the right to ask for the proposal.

A decision by Department of Licensing and Regulation Secretary William A. Fogle Jr. to request the regulations. Fogle had earlier in the year refused to proceed with the proposal partly because a staff member said a 1984 law on telephone betting did not provide for the simulcasting approach. Curran later issued an opinion saying simulcasting was covered by the 1984 law.