The House of Delegates approved and sent to the Senate today a bill that would legalize parimutuel wagering on jai alai in Baltimore City.
Sources said the bill, passed by an 84-31 margin today, will face stiff opposition in the Senate. Gov. Harry Hughes already has said he is opposed to the bill.
Del. Paul Weisengoff (D-Balt.) engineered the bill to its surprisingly swift passage in the House. He said that the sport could generate $15 million in tax revenues for the city in its first year.
"If the city is going to solve its problems in the next century, it's going to have to take unusual directions," said Del. Dennis C. McCoy, chairman of the Baltimore delegation. "It's gamble well worth taking."
Only 16 of Baltimore's 33 delegates voted in favor of the bill.
"Maryland in general and Baltimore in specific need another form of legalized gambling... like we need a hole in the head," said Del. Wendell H. Phillips, a minister.
"It seems to me this bill would benefit only one group -- the people interested in running a fronton palace in Baltimore," said Del. Andrew J. Burns.
A Connecticut businessman has proposed to build a fronton in southeast Baltimore hear the City Convention Center. The fronton would be built on 22 acres purchased from the city.