Gambling tax posed as remedy Keno revenue would be replaced in Lapides plan

February 06, 1993|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Staff Writer

A Baltimore senator thinks the way to get rid of keno-type gambling is to tax other types of gambling.

State Sen. Julian L. Lapides has introduced legislation that would put a 5 percent tax on the money that goes into slot machines, pinball machines, video poker games, tip jars, casino nights and nearly all other forms of gambling allowed in Maryland.

The only exceptions would be horse racing, which is already taxed, and the state lottery.

"I think the governor was acting very responsibly when he said that anyone who wanted to get rid of keno should find another source of revenue," Senator Lapides said. "This would provide that other source."

Mr. Lapides, a Democrat from Bolton Hill, said an analysis of his bill by the Department of Fiscal Services would determine the amount the state could raise through the tax. But he said he was confident it would be "well in excess" of the $100 million that the Schaefer administration is counting on from keno next fiscal year.

Few in Annapolis give the Lapides measure much chance of getting through the General Assembly intact, but many seem intrigued by its revenue-raising possibilities.

"There would be all sorts of opposition to this," said Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, which will consider the bill.

"All the fraternal clubs that have gambling, every bar owner who has a video poker machine, they'd all be down here yelling and screaming," he said. "I can't see it going anywhere."

But like several others contacted, Senator Levitan did raise the possibility of having such a tax in connection with House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell's proposal to set up a statewide gambling commission.

"I believe the speaker's commission will be the major legislative action of this session," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, the House Appropriations Committee chairman.

"I could see that commission proposing something like this. But I'm not anxious to place any more taxes on the public at this time," Mr. Rawlings said.

One outspoken keno opponent, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas P. O'Reilly, said he would prefer to find the money needed to kill keno through budget cuts.

"It just bothers me that by taxing gambling, the state would be seen as condoning something that we should be trying to get rid of," the Prince Georges Democrat said. "But it is an interesting idea. Maybe it's like alcohol -- we would be better off without it, but since it's here we should get some tax money from it."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. voiced similar sentiments. "Maybe after we've done all the budget cutting we can, if we still can't find enough money to make up for keno, we could turn to something like this. But my basic position is that we should be de-emphasizing gambling."

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