George Rada, sipping a beer at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post here, and Bobbie Hicks, working behind the bar, said it is the needy who will suffer from Gov. Harry Hughes' veto of legislation that would have allowed a limited return of slot machines to the Eastern Shore.
"It's hurting the charities, that's what it's hurting," said Hicks, who displayed a pile of application forms for children wanting to go to a summer camp. In the past, the post helped pay some of the expenses for the children, she said, but now she doesn't know if it can afford to.
Rada said his post frequently made donations to assist people, buying fuel in winter or paying for medical treatment. "These are things that nobody knew about," he said. "We don't do it for publicity."
Until Sept. 28, when a raiding party of 90 state troopers swooped down on 24 veterans' posts, fraternal lodges and yacht clubs, slot machines were an extremely popular -- if somewhat illegal -- part of life here on the Eastern Shore. Police seized 160 slot machines -- five at the VFW post here -- and created a furor of magnificent proportions.
State prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said today that nobody was prosecuted because "we didn't think we were dealing with criminals." He said court hearings are now being organized to seal the fate of the slot machines, which are stored at the state police barracks in Waterloo.
Rada's conversation was peppered with attacks on Hughes -- an Eastern Shore native -- for opposing the slot machine bill but not protesting the state lottery. "That's one thing that takes more food out of people's mouths than any other gambling," he said.
In Annapolis, Del. Ronald A. Guns (D-Eastern Shore) said the veto "doesn't help" Hughes politically on the Eastern Shore if he runs for U.S. Senate. "The state has the lottery but the Shore can't have slots," he said. "That's what's so depressing."
Del. Daniel M. Long (D-Eastern Shore) said: "I'm not surprised at anything Harry Hughes does anymore. I'm hearing a lot of people . . . saying he's forgotten where he came from." But Hughes is "a realist," Long added. "There aren't many votes on the Eastern Shore."
Drinkers at the Moose lodge outside Grasonville had a few choice words for Hughes, but were hostile to questions about slot machines. They said Mary Lou Boyd, who runs a center for retarded adults in Grasonville, could speak for them.
At the Chesterwye Center, Boyd offered no opinion on slot machines, except to say that the center receives $3,000 to $5,000 in donations a year, most of it from organizations such as the Moose and the VFW.
Usually, she said, "We receive donations on a regular basis from organizations that have slot machines." She said she didn't know for a fact that the money came from the slots, but that's what the groups told her. The money provided support for nine of the 31 retarded adults the center cares for, she said.
So far this year, she said, the center hasn't received a thing.