Machines remain illegal Commissioners say no to video poker games

December 01, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll commissioners agreed yesterday not to legalize video poker machines in county fraternal clubs because of a state investigation into slot machine use by similar clubs on the Eastern Shore.

The news last week about two investigations on the Eastern Shore was "the straw that broke the camel's back," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said last night.

Last week, representatives of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Moose and Elks demonstrated the machines for the commissioners and urged them to ask Carroll's General Assembly delegation to introduce legislation next year to legalize the machines.

The groups use the machines to raise money for themselves and for charity. The machines pay cash prizes and are illegal in Maryland.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the three commissioners talked about the issue yesterday afternoon near the back door of the County Office Building after a meeting about another issue. They did not take a formal vote, Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said.

In one state investigation, the Maryland attorney general's office and an Annapolis grand jury are looking into whether revenue from the Eastern Shore slot machines has been spent and accounted for properly. About 50 clubs are licensed to have the machines.

In the other probe, the state prosecutor is investigating possible financial irregularities in the Talbot County sheriff's office. The investigation involves the possible misuse of slot machine revenue donated to the office by local clubs.

The slot machines were legalized on the Eastern Shore five years ago. The law requires that half the proceeds go to non-profit organizations.

Daniel Green, a Westminster attorney who represents the Carroll fraternal groups, told the commissioners last week that 10 percent of the profits from the machines would be given to the county and another 10 percent would go for the state amusement tax.

The remaining money would be divided among maintenance for the machines, the host organization and charity.

"We recognize that gambling has been going on and it should be placed under county supervision," Mr. Green said last week.

He could not be reached for comment last night.

Mr. Lippy estimated that Carroll would receive about $500,000 a year from the machines.

"No matter how we try to ignore it, gambling is a moral issue," Mr. Lippy said.

Mr. Dell said he had never supported legalizing the machines.

Some people would use their grocery money to play the machines, he said.

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