'Play Keno or Granny Gets It'

BARRY RASCOVAR

January 03, 1993|By BARRY RASCOVAR

Crystal-ball forecasting is an inexact science. Especially when it involves Maryland politicos. Rather than go too far out on a limb, here is a six-month pack of predictions:

Jan. 4 -- Club Keno arrives. William Donald Schaefer buys first ticket. He wins $20,000. He orders a doubling of keno locations and doubles GTECH's $49 million contract for keno terminals.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran says GTECH qualifies for an "emergency, sole-source" contract. It's legal, he says, but not ethical.

Jan. 5 -- Faced with a new revenue shortfall, governor announces a second "el Gordo" lottery. Drawing set for Valentine's Day.

Jan. 13 -- The General Assembly convenes. Bill introduced to abolish keno. Governor says if bill passes, he'll have no choice but to toss the elderly poor out of nursing homes. He tells a statewide TV audience, "Play Keno or Granny gets it."

Jan. 20 -- Governor Schaefer presents his budget, minus any money for the Ocean City Convention Center. "[Mayor] Fish Powell can take his sand and stuff it," the governor says.

Jan. 24 -- A circuit court judge halts keno. The governor retaliates. Power is cut off to the Worcester County Courthouse. The elderly poor are evicted from nursing homes. The governor says they can return if they buy "el Gordo" tickets.

Attorney General Curran defends the governor's actions, though says he's personally troubled by the moral implications.

Feb. 1 -- Court-ordered keno halt means revenue falls below projections. Governor pushes for slot machines and video poker games.

Feb. 4 -- "El Gordo" sales still slow. Drawing now re-set for Easter Sunday. Governor tells state workers their pay raises depend on how many "el Gordos" they buy.

Feb. 11 -- U.S. Attorney Richard Bennett subpoenas lottery records. GTECH lobbyist Bruce Bereano complains that probe is "a witch hunt."

Feb. 18 -- A Senate committee approves a bill killing keno. The governor threatens to cut power to the Senate Office Building.

Feb. 25 -- The sale of the Orioles is approved. New owners agree to install 2,500 keno machines at Oriole Park. GTECH contract is extended once again.

Feb. 27 -- During a candlelight session of the state Senate, keno-killer bill passes.

March 3 -- The state Court of Appeals reverses lower-court keno ruling, saying it is legal though morally troubling.

March 4 -- GTECH lobbyist Marvin Mandel testifies before grand jury. Bruce Bereano calls inquiry "political." Governor threatens to cut off power to federal courthouse.

March 11 -- The National Football League awards a franchise to Baltimore. Governor announces plans for a 105,000-seat domed stadium, with 6,000 keno machines.

March 15 -- House Speaker Clay Mitchell orders keno-killer bill killed in committee. The Schaefer slots/poker bill passes House with speaker's blessing. "What choice do we have?" Mr. Mitchell asks. "We need the money."

March 22 -- Citing disappointing revenue forecasts, governor introduces bill for casino gambling. GTECH in line for "emergency, sole-source" contract. Attorney General Curran says it is legal, though he is personally opposed. Speaker Mitchell says, "Money talks."

April 1 -- U.S. Attorney Bennett announces he's indicting "the whole gang of keno clowns." Then he smiles. "April Fool's!"

April 11 -- "El Gordo" sales only 400,000. Drawing postponed till Mother's Day.

April 25 -- Governor announces that thanks to keno, state budget problems have been solved. Revised revenue estimates on slots and casino gambling: $8.2 billion.

April 26 -- Extended legislative session approves casinos and slots.

May 1 -- Vicious spring storm washes out Ocean City. "Serves 'em right," says the governor. He announces plans for huge indoor casino park, to be called "Don's World." GTECH gets sole-source contract.

May 9 -- Mother's Day, and no sign of "el Gordo."

May 11 -- Republican U.S. Attorney Bennett leaves office. His replacement, Democrat Bruce Bereano, says lottery investigation showed everything was legal but "morally troubling." New lottery director, Marvin Mandel, puffing on his meerschaum pipe, says, "Trust me, I know what I'm doing."

May 15 -- Thanks to keno and slots, state's expected surplus now at $2.2 billion. Governor's approval rating in polls zooms.

May 25 -- Maryland declares Taxpayer Amnesty Year -- all taxes revoked. Projected revenue from casinos, slots and keno tops $12 billion. Governor unveils new state motto: "Casinos 'r' Us."

June 1 -- "Draft Schaefer for President" movement begins. Ross Perot praises Mr. Schaefer's creative approach to government.

June 12 -- Schaefer-Perot ticket formally announced. Governor promises a GTECH terminal in every home and an "el Gordo" ticket for every family. He pledges to end the federal deficit within 90 days.

June 20 -- Father's Day. "El Gordo" sales only 900,000, but drawing is held anyway. Winning ticket-holder: William Donald Schaefer. "That's the kind of luck this country needs," says running-mate Perot.

July 3 -- Governor Schaefer resigns to devote full time to campaign for president. "The whole state's a big ----house," he says.

?3 July 4 -- Maryland celebrates Independence Day.

Barry Rascovar is editorial-page director for The Sun.

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