Tax OTB revenues more, some say State may seek bigger cut if OTB passes.

February 07, 1992|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Annapolis Bureau

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.

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