Slots at fairgrounds pushed for study

Timonium groups, officials oppose chamber's move

January 09, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Despite widespread opposition among community groups and local legislators, the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce is calling for the state to consider allowing slot machines at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

The chamber, which is to reveal its legislative agenda this morning, isn't taking a position in favor of slots at the fairgrounds but believes the idea is worth studying, said Stuart Braun, the organization's government affairs director.

"We support slots, and we also support the idea of considering Timonium," he said. "Let it be debated and stand on its own merits."

Frank Reagan, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, said the chamber is "obviously not in touch with what the community is thinking." The 44 community associations in the area have adamantly opposed slots at Timonium, as have all the county and state officials there.

Although the fairgrounds offers some horse racing, the site was not one of four racetracks where Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. proposed allowing slots.

However, after the governor's proposal was defeated, House Speaker Michael E. Busch visited the Timonium track and suggested that putting a slots parlor there could generate more revenue for the state than allowing slots at privately owned racetracks. Fair officials subsequently began pushing for them.

William F.C. Marlow Jr., counsel to the Maryland State Fair and a member of the fair board's executive committee, said he is pleased by the chamber's move.

"There are a substantial number of people in the Timonium business community who are very supportive of the fair's efforts," Marlow said, adding that money from slots could help refurbish a facility where many of the buildings are more than 30 years old.

County Executive James T. Smith Jr. sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders opposing slots in Timonium during the summer, and his spokesman, Damian O'Doherty said yesterday that studying the issue would be "a waste of time."

"We don't think there's any reason to study an issue where nearly everyone has concluded that it's not in the best interests of Timonium and it's not in the best interests of the state of Maryland," O'Doherty said.

County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican who has been a vocal opponent of slots in Timonium, agreed, saying, "The matter has been thoroughly debated."

Reagan said residents worry that slots would crowd out many family-friendly events at the fairgrounds and would create a traffic nightmare.

State Sen. James Brochin, a Towson Democrat who represents the area around the fairgrounds, said that traffic in the York Road corridor is diminishing the quality of life for residents and discouraging them from patronizing businesses.

But Braun said the site would be a good venue for many reasons and merits discussion.

Sun staff writer Greg Garland contributed to this article.

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