State fair officials to promote slots at site

Panel of state lawmakers to visit Timonium today

October 30, 2003|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Despite adamant opposition from Baltimore County political figures and neighboring residents, Maryland State Fair officials will try today to persuade lawmakers to allow slot machines at their site in Timonium.

"Our position is that we have the best location around," said William F.C. Marlow Jr., the state fair's lawyer and a member of the nonprofit fair's governing board.

A legislative panel studying slots is to tour the fairground today as it continues examining potential sites for slots.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch has suggested that the fairgrounds, which has a horse-racing track, could be an appropriate venue for a state-controlled slots emporium.

But Baltimore County legislators and residents, some of whom support allowing slots at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, say they adamantly oppose having them in their community.

Marlow said state government could get a bigger share of the profits if slots were at the fairgrounds.

"We don't have shareholders looking for dividends," Marlow said.

Asked about the opposition to slots at Timonium, Marlow responded: "I don't concede that there is intense community opposition. I admit people [opposing slots in Timonium] have collected signatures on a Web site and in front of commercial establishments, but they haven't been presented with our side."

He said that some "individuals and commercial establishments in the area have offered support" and that fears of traffic problems are overblown.

But Michael S. Blair, president of the Stratford Community Association, said Timonium residents have spoken "loud and clear," with more than 3,000 people signing petitions opposing slots at Timonium.

"I've talked to countless residents, business owners and clergy and the response is always the same - slots will destroy Timonium," Blair said.

He said that slots would "change the entire character of the neighborhood" and place additional stress on overburdened roads.

Blair said he is disappointed that fair officials continue to press for slots. "It shows they have no concern for the neighbors," he said.

Marlow said having a state-run slots facility at the Maryland State Fair or at the Rocky Gap Resort & Convention Center in Allegany County makes a lot of sense for the state's taxpayers.

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