Md. buses carry ads for slots in Del. Foes, proponents of expanded gambling in state complain

November 15, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

The Glendening administration may be opposed to slot machines in Maryland, but that hasn't kept the state from helping Delaware promote its slots.

For the past few weeks, ads for slot machines at the Dover Downs horse track have been prominently displayed on 90 Maryland Mass Transit Administration buses serving the Baltimore area.

"Only 90 Minutes Dover Downs Slots!" the ads announce.

Given Glendening's position, the ads have prompted grumbling from proponents of expanded gambling in Maryland. And a state senator who opposes slots and casinos finds the ads ironic and upsetting.

"In view of Gov. Glendening's opposition to expanded gambling in Maryland, I have great difficulty understanding why the state is accepting slot advertisements which are directly soliciting citizens of Maryland to gamble more," Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, a Howard County Republican, wrote in a recent letter to MTA Administrator John A. Agro Jr.

"I strongly urge you to consider removing the ads from MTA buses," McCabe said.

An MTA spokesman said the agency is obligated to accept advertisements from legitimate businesses.

Spokesman Anthony Brown said the MTA has been advised that unless an ad depicts violence, obscenity or an illegal activity, the agency is generally required to display it.

"We don't arbitrarily pick what ad we want and not pick another," Brown said. He said he had no comment on McCabe's complaint that the ads seem to contradict the governor's position.

An official with Reeves National Corp./MTC, which the MTA has hired to manage its advertising, declined to reveal the cost of the Dover Downs ads. But based on the company's stated rates, the track's ads on the Maryland buses are costing as much as $162,000 for the six months they are scheduled to run.

Reeves pays the MTA $915,000 a year to handle the agency's advertisements, so the state is receiving revenue "indirectly" from the slot machine ads, said Jim Bovard, Reeves' general manager.

One of those who consider the ads offensive is Joseph A. De Francis, majority owner of the Pimlico and Laurel racecourses, who has pushed for permission to install his own slots.

"To have it shoved in your face every day by looking at these buses is very difficult," De Francis said.

Dover Downs sees a natural market in Maryland, a track official said.

"We're just trying to advertise and let the folks in Baltimore and Annapolis know we have slots over here," said Richard Murchison, vice president for marketing at Dover Downs. "The buses were available, and we thought it was a good idea."

The track's ads are running on 90 of the MTA's approximately 800 buses, said Brown, the agency's spokesman.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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