Bill planned to let groups have slots

Measure would allow nonprofits to use machines

December 19, 2003|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

An East Baltimore legislator said yesterday that he plans to introduce legislation early next year to allow nonprofit fraternal and social service clubs across Maryland to bring in slot machines to raise money for charitable purposes.

"If we're going to give it to these big corporate profiteers, why not let the little guys have something where they are going to put the money directly back into the community?" Del. Clarence Davis asked.

Davis, a veteran Democrat who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, said his legislative proposal would track state law that allows slots at some nonprofit organizations in eight Eastern Shore counties.

He said he envisions allowing slots at American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters, Elks clubs and similar organizations.

On the Eastern Shore, such groups are allowed to have five video slot machines per location. The organizations are required to donate half the proceeds to charitable causes.

Davis raised the idea of allowing social service groups to have slots during a meeting of a Ways and Means subcommittee called to discuss expanding gambling in Maryland.

The subcommittee discussed overall objectives for a slots program, such as maximizing revenue for the state and limiting their effect on communities where they would be located. It made no recommendations on where slots should be located, whether they should be publicly or privately owned or operated, or on other key issues.

A report will be made to the full committee, which will consider the slots issue further shortly after the General Assembly session begins Jan. 14, said Del. Anne Healey, a Prince George's County Democrat who is chairwoman of the slots subcommittee.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said the issue of whether to legalize slots is one for the full House to decide and that the committee's role is to outline what it sees as the best deal for taxpayers if a decision is made to allow slots.

After the meeting, Davis said that a number of fraternal groups had approached him about allowing their organizations to have slots.

"They want the same capacity to provide charitable support to youth and other social welfare needs that they have on the Eastern Shore," he said. "We're talking about groups in our neighborhoods that will provide money to support school activities and football leagues."

Davis' proposal would be a significant expansion of gambling from other proposals backed by the Ehrlich administration for slots emporiums at four horse racing tracks.

The administration rejected proposals to allow slots at bars, saying that "convenience gambling" is unacceptable.

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