Gaming Backers Try To Hit Jackpot With Lawmakers

But County Delegation Wary Of Returning To Slot Machine Era

February 16, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Dreaming of Lady Luck, volunteer firefighters and fraternal groups asked Maryland lawmakers to legalize Las Vegas-style games and slot machines in Anne Arundel County.

But they got a tepid response from county lawmakers, some of whom say they remember all too well the days when slot machines and "casino nights" tarnished the county's family-oriented reputation.

The firefighters want casino games to help raise money to purchase fire engines and other emergency equipment. The fraternal groups have asked for the slot machines -- which their Eastern Shore counterparts already use legally -- to support their charitable activities.

"We're not asking for something -- we want to give you something," said Carl Thomas, a Davidsonville resident and state adjutant of the Veterans Foreign Wars.

Delegate Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski, aDemocrat from Carvel Beach, has introduced a bill that would list Anne Arundel with eight Eastern Shore counties whose bona fide fraternal, religious and veterans organizations can operate slot machines.

The proceeds would have to benefit local charities and would be regularly reported to the state

Other delegation members were ambivalent about Kolodziejski's bill Friday.

Though she did not voice support for the measure, Delegate Marsha Perry, a Crofton Democrat, said she is "offended" by recent newspaper editorials opposing the slot machines.

"I hear these charitable groups asking for (slot machines)in a very honorable way, yet we keep hearing that we should vote against in newspaper editorials referring to Anne Arundel County's checkered, gaming past," Perry said. "I'm offended by these comments."

"Philosophically, I'm not opposed to slot machines," said Delegate Tyras S. "Bunk" Athey, D-Jessup. "But a lot of people in the county still remember when we had slot machines before."

Delegate John Gary,R-Millersville, recalled working as a draper 30 years ago and finding piles of cash in the offices of one slot machine mogul. He said he had bad memories of corrupt public leaders who were bought with gambling money. He recalled mysterious fires at restaurants owned by slot machine kings and even mysterious deaths.

"People in the county were really afraid," Gary said.

But Gary did not say if he would oppose Kolodziejski's bill. He noted that computerized slot machines aremuch more difficult to rig today than the old machines.

Lawmakersseemed to have fewer problems with allowing a casino nights if they are regulated by the county. Under their proposal, firefighters couldstage no more than one event per week, would have to operate the events themselves and would have to obtain a county permit.

"The slotmachines -- forget it. I'm totally against bringing slot machines back to the county," said Elizabeth Smith, R-Davidsonville. "I lived here before, I saw how it brought a corrupt influence."

But casino nights, Smith said, are far less prone to infiltration by corrupt, big-time gamblers than slot machines.

"I have no objection to . . . casino nights if they are regulated and they aren't run every night the way an Atlantic City is," Athey said.

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