Banking on the Slots

Governor Seeks to License Machines at Tracks Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. outlined a plan to allow casino-style operations at four Maryland racetracks and direct nearly two-thirds of the gambling profits -- as much as $800 million a year -- to public schools.

The governor introduced a bill that would permit 10,500 slot machines across Maryland, vaulting the state into the big leagues of legalized gambling. In return, the racetracks would pay the state $350 million in one-time licensing fees and a 64 percent cut of the annual profits from slots.

Anticipating a sharply divided General Assembly, Ehrlich (R) proposed that the state's share of the profits be wholly dedicated to public education and that a small percentage go to communities surrounding the tracks. Each year, $500,000 would be reserved to treat compulsive gamblers.

Trying to Make Students Safer

U-Md. Police Broaden Off-Campus Patrols The University of Maryland police department is expanding its jurisdiction beyond campus and bolstering patrols through student-dominated neighborhoods.

The move to improve safety around the College Park campus comes even as a new task force report was released with recommendations ranging from expanded campus shuttle services to more cooperation between college and county police. The report was prepared by a task force put together by campus, county and city officials after the stabbing death of a student outside an off-campus party in November.

Taking the Trolley

Planners Oppose Bethesda-Silver Spring Metro Montgomery County planners have advised against a compromise plan by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan to link Bethesda and Silver Spring by Metro, urging that the county instead back a trolley service that has been under consideration for more than a decade.

Debate over the 4.4-mile stretch of a planned Purple Line route heads to the Montgomery County Council in the coming week, setting up the first real test of Duncan's ability to hold sway over the members he worked to elect in November.

A Tough School Year

Prince George's Board Studies Cuts The Prince George's County school board plans to cut more than $150 million from schools chief Iris T. Metts's $1.36 billion budget request before sending it to the County Council.

Board members say the financial crunch could put the school system's plans to restructure its magnet programs on hold. "I think it's going to be a tough year," said board member Robert O. Duncan (Laurel).

Metts's request represents a $256 million increase in spending over the current year. The plan, Metts says, would help reduce class sizes, continue mandatory summer school and all-day kindergarten, and increase salaries for teachers and administrators.

Across the Region

Higher Tuition; Metro Parking; Calling for Help

* Even as they approved the second tuition increase in a year, Howard Community College officials warned that a third could be looming if the school's share of state and county funds drops further. Community college presidents across Maryland said they are contemplating tuition increases of 10 percent to 15 percent.

* Construction was due to start this weekend on an $80 million conference center on Rockville Pike across from the White Flint Metro station in North Bethesda, altering parking patterns for commuters. A 990-space Metro lot has been closed, but parking will be available at a newly opened Metro lot and a nearby county-owned commuter lot.

* The Anne Arundel County sheriff's and state's attorney's offices unveiled a program giving victims of domestic violence donated cell phones with 30 minutes of air time a month for access to 911 or a pre-programmed emergency hotline.

Cold passage: The Coast Guard cutter Chock cuts a path through the ice to allow the ferry Steven Thomas to reach isolated Tangier Island.