Lottery requests dismissal of keno suit STATE HOUSE REPORT

January 21, 1993|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Staff Writer

Gambling on a legal maneuver to avoid a court battle over keno, the State Lottery Agency has asked a Worcester County judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed a month ago by Ocean City officials attempting to bar the numbers game from the resort.

Ocean City officials and six business owners claimed in a suit that keno is illegal because it targets patrons of establishments where alcohol is served and because routine state procurement regulations were ignored when the new lottery contract was awarded last year.

Keno debuted in Maryland on Jan. 4 in 600 outlets across the state, including a dozen in Ocean City. While two bills designed to stop keno have been presented to lawmakers meeting in Annapolis, the first formal challenge to the game came from Ocean City when it sued the lottery agency on Dec. 21.

In court documents filed late yesterday in Snow Hill, lottery attorney Romaine N. Williams argued that the suit should have been filed in Baltimore, the site of the agency's headquarters. Snow Hill is the seat of Worcester County government.

The agency asked Circuit Judge Theodore R. Eschenburg Sr. to dismiss the suit because it was improperly filed.

If the judge decides not to dismiss it, the agency suggested that the civil case be moved to Baltimore.

Judge Eschenburg had given the lottery agency until Jan. 22 to respond to the suit. Yesterday's response does not address the specific arguments against keno outlined in the suit. Instead, it seeks to bring an end to the suit or delay the time it will take before it comes before a judge.

Ocean City solicitor Guy R. Ayres III said yesterday he anticipated the agency's response.

"Quite frankly, I'm not surprised," he said. "I was expecting anything that would delay the matter."

Mr. Ayres said he will ask city officials to decide whether to fight to keep the suit in Worcester County or agree to have it moved to Baltimore. He said moving the case outside Worcester County would cost Ocean City more in travel expenses.

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