Mayor wants off-track betting regulated Westminster board to get request CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

January 25, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown plans to ask the City Council tonight to regulate off-track betting.

The mayor abandoned a similar proposal to regulate keno games within city limits after he learned that state law barred local governments from banning or requiring permits for state-sponsored gambling. But the mayor said Friday that he understands the city can legally regulate off-track betting, since it is not directly operated by the state government.

Mr. Brown's proposal would make off-track or any other form of telephone betting a conditional use requiring approval by the city zoning appeals board. The review process would include a public hearing.

"I just want to give our community every opportunity to review it locally," Mr. Brown said. If the appeals board authorized an off-track betting establishment in Westminster, "I would have no problem with that," he said.

No local business has proposed starting off-track betting, although City Clerk John D. Dudderar reported that one bar inquired casually about it. He declined to identify the establishment because he said he had no indication that the owners planned to pursue it.

Council members Stephen R. Chapin Sr. and Rebecca A. Orenstein said Friday they could not comment on the proposal, as they had not yet had time to study it. Council President William F. Haifley said he did not learn of it until Friday.

Off-track betting has been legal in Maryland since July 1, 1992. The General Assembly approved it during last year's legislative session in an effort to revive the state's sagging racing industry.

Maryland Racing Commission Executive Director Kenneth Schertle said he has not had any expressions of interest from Westminster. He said that although he has not received any applications for permits, he understands that establishments in Frederick, Cambridge and Annapolis are interested.

The Cracked Claw restaurant in Urbana appears likely to be the first to open an off-track betting parlor.

If it wins approval from the Frederick County planning and zoning commission and gets a racing commission permit, the restaurant will be outfitted with ticket windows and television monitors. Racing fans will be able to place bets, then watch races as they dine.

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