CAMBRIDGE -- Maryland's third off-track betting parlor, in Cambridge on the Eastern Shore, will open tomorrow night at the Shoals Restaurant and Quality Inn on Route 50.
Despite the objections of some community residents, including a local church, the Maryland Racing Commission unanimously approved the application of operators Greg and Charlene Burton after holding a public hearing at the facility last night.
Initially, the Shoals location will offer betting only on nighttime harness races, starting tomorrow with full-card simulcasts from Delmarva Downs, Rosecroft and The Meadows, near Pittsburgh.
Afternoon thoroughbred action won't start until after the Timonium meet closes and Pimlico reopens Sept. 9.
There was some concern by board members that tomorrow's proposed opening might be delayed because the Burtons had not yet hired a security staff. But Charlene Burton assured the panel that security personnel will be hired today.
The Rev. Barry Miller, pastor of Cambridge Wesleyan Church and some of his members, including several children and teen-agers, testified against the parlor.
"We stand against this as a morality problem and because gambling is addictive and loosens the fabric of the family," Miller said.
Two local housewives, Sandra Spedden and Olivia Schunick, also said that legalized gambling does not
promote a family image for Cambridge. "It's just a big negative for this community," Spedden said.
However, a whole array of local officials, including members of the board of the Dorchester County commissioners, the Cambridge City Council and the local representative of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development, spoke in favor of the project.
City councilwoman Octavene Saunders said the OTB facility will provide much-needed jobs for the community. "Cambridge is always the last place to do anything," Saunders said. "If we don't do it here, then it will go across the bridge to Talbot [County]."
Another councilman, Reginald Asplen, said the new gambling parlor fits in well with the development of Sailwinds Park, which is being built to lure tourists.
Other proponents included Baird Brittingham, former president of Delaware Park, who lives in nearby Trappe and owns thoroughbreds and standardbreds.
The Shoals OTB facility can accommodate about 400, Charlene Burton said. Three rooms -- a dining room, a bar-lounge area and a banquet room -- have been converted into a gambling center with mutuel windows and a bar.
Charlene Burton said she expects to hire 30 additional employees for the facility, which also includes a 60-room motel.
John Mooney, general manager of Pimlico-Laurel, said no thoroughbred racing will be offered at Cambridge tomorrow because it makes no sense to simulcast into the new facility for one week and then close during the Timonium meet. Timonium does not simulcast to OTB parlors.
Other off-track betting parlors in the state are the Cracked Claw Restaurant in Urbana (near Frederick) and Poor Jimmy's Family Restaurant in North East (near Elkton).