County lawmakers are sponsoring legislation to legalize casino-stylegambling for volunteer firefighters and other non-profit groups thatare trying to raise money.
The 13 members of the county's House delegation voted unanimously Friday to allow local firefighters to operate over-and-under dice, five-card showdown poker and blackjack games during fund-raisers.
However, the delegation killed legislation that would have legalized slot machines in the county for non-profit groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"We just allowed casino nights. What do you want, every kind of gambling there is?" Del. George Owings, a Democrat from Calvert County, asked the proponents of slot machines.
Las Vegas events had been popular fund-raisers. But lawmakers cracked down on the events after police uncovered abuses, including profit skimming and loan sharking by professional gamblers, in Prince George's, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.
Last month, members of the Odenton and Arundel volunteer fire departments asked lawmakers to legalizethe games once more.
The new legislation, which makes casino fund-raisers available to all non-profit groups, would limit the types ofgames played and hold wagers to $2 or less. The bill also would not allow groups to hire an professional organizer. Only adults who are 21 years old or older and have been members for two or more years could deal the cards or operate the games.
"We're trying to give them an opportunity to play some games they can wager on and make some money on," said Del. Michael Busch, an Annapolis Democrat and chairman of the delegation. "It's pure luck and entertainment."
Busch said many organizations have been operating casino events illegally in recent years. Under the legislation, non-profit groups must obtain a permit from the county Department of Permits and Inspections.
Violations would be punishable by a $500 fine or six months in jail.
The slot machine bill, sponsored by Del. Charles W. Stokes Kolodziejski, D-Carvel Beach, found no support among other lawmakers.
Dels. W. Ray Huff, D-Pasadena, and Busch said they were concerned the slot machines would subsidize the food and drinks served at the veterans' clubs, undercutting local restaurants and bars.
Others feared slot machines would corrupt the county. Del. Elizabeth Smith, a Republican from Davidsonville, said "where the machines go, criminal elements are bound to follow."
"I don't think we should open up this can of worms in Anne Arundel County," said Del. Joan Cadden, a Democrat from Brooklyn Park.
The delegation will sponsor legislation amending liquor laws to allow beer at the Annapolis Wine Festival.
The Association of Maryland Wineries withdrew its support from the 4-year-oldfestival last year, prompting Jerry Hardesty, owner of Middleton Tavern, which organizes the event, to add beer to the menu.
The modification would allow Hardesty to sell beer rather than require him to find a non-profit group to obtain a one-day license.
Originally a promotional event for Maryland wines, the festival could include other beers and wines under the bill.
Numerous Annapolis charities operate fund-raising booths at the event and lent their support for the amendment.
However, neighbors of St. John's College where the event is staged and Alderman John Hammond, D-Ward 1, complained that the event will become nothing more than a "bubba beer bash."