Task force seems poised to recommend against casinos, chairman says Nine-member state panel plans vote Monday, final report next month

November 07, 1995|By Frank Langfitt and Thomas W. Waldron | Frank Langfitt and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

A state task force seems ready to recommend against legalizing casinos in Maryland, its chairman said yesterday.

"It appears that there are going to be more nay votes than yea votes," predicted former U.S. Sen. Joseph D. Tydings, who chairs the nine-member panel appointed by the governor and legislative leaders.

The task force is scheduled to vote on the issue Monday and deliver its final recommendations next month, in time for the legislative session that begins in January.

In interviews after a work session yesterday, no task force members would say how they will vote, but four indicated they were leaning against casinos.

They included Mr. Tydings, state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell of Baltimore County; Edward T. Lewis, president of St. Mary's College of Maryland; and Robert C. Embry Jr., president of Baltimore's Abell Foundation.

"Let me just say at this point it's not in the best interest of all Marylanders," Mr. Bromwell said of casino gambling.

The panel's five other members declined to discuss how they might vote.

They were questioned after a meeting where some members expressed frustration at the conflicting assessments by two state agencies of casinos' potential impact. The General Assembly's fiscal experts estimate that legalizing casinos would result in a net gain of nearly 20,000 jobs.

Another report financed by gambling companies and prepared by the Arthur Andersen accounting firm and University of Baltimore researchers said casinos would generate $242 million in tax revenue and more than $672 million in wages.

That report even predicted that restaurants and hotels -- which often oppose casinos and the competition they bring -- would see substantial income growth, thanks to gambling.

But a draft report by the state Department of Business and Economic Development said that 90 percent of casino profits could come at the expense of those same businesses, with a net loss of nearly 7,000 jobs.

The study predicted that a Baltimore casino could eliminate nearly 11,000 jobs in restaurants and bars, 197 jobs in retail stores and 1,132 in the horse racing industry.

"Why don't we just pick a number out of a hat," said a frustrated Senator Bromwell. "It's very hard to be definitive on anything because the information is so outrageous on both sides."

Peter Reuter, the task force's executive director, said he thought both forecasts exaggerated. He predicted that the net loss or gain from casinos would not exceed 5,000 jobs statewide.

"In terms of jobs, it's probably a wash," said Mr. Reuter, t tTC professor of economics in the school of public affairs at the University of Maryland College Park.

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