ANNAPOLIS -- If Maryland allows the racing industry to open off-track betting parlors, the state should get a bigger share of the gambling proceeds, lawmakers say.
The state could use the money to help with a massive deficit that may spur higher taxes on a variety of goods and services, legislators said at a hearing on an off-track betting bill.
The state collects one-half of 1 percent of all money bet at the state's tracks, having reduced its take from 5 percent in 1985.
"We only get one-half of 1 percent. It's kind of hard to justify that to other businesses in the state," Sen. James C. Simpson, D-Charles, said yesterday. "It's not the only industry in recession."
Several senators said they would consider raising the tax on the proceeds of off-track betting, although there were no specific proposals.
"Maybe 1 [percent] or 2 percent might not be so bad," said Sen. John W. Derr, R-Frederick.
Proponents of off-track betting concede that the tax issue may ++ be the toughest political obstacle, although they think the legislature generally supports the concept.
A coalition of racing interests -- including breeders, trainers and the owners of the state's four tracks -- is pushing off-track betting, which they say is necessary to stay competitive with other states. They have the backing of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"It's a major industry in trouble," the governor said.
The bill is sponsored by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's.