State fair officials to continue push for slot machines

General Assembly

January 30, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Maryland State Fair officials vowed yesterday to continue their battle to get slots at the Timonium fairgrounds, despite the opposition of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Baltimore County legislators and local officials.

"We need that slots revenue," said lobbyist Nancy Hill. "I want everybody to know we're not giving up."

She said money from the state fair and from 10 days of horse racing isn't sufficient to maintain and renovate 23 aging buildings plus the racetrack.

Hill and several state fair officials met yesterday to discuss Ehrlich's slots bill. The bill lists four racetracks -- but not the fairgrounds -- as potential slots sites. It also includes language that specifically excludes the fairgrounds from receiving one of the two other slots licenses that would be made available for sites yet to be determined.

Ehrlich also ruled out slots at Ocean Downs, a harness racing track near Ocean City owned by William J. Rickman Jr. He is in line for 1,000 slot machines at a track to be built in Allegany County, but Ocean Downs is considered a more lucrative location.

"I'm happy that Allegany is in the governor's bill and am disappointed he has not addressed Ocean Downs," Rickman said. "I hope once he understands that [poll] ratings for slots at Ocean Downs is very high that he'll reconsider. I think many of the legislators understand that Ocean Downs is a very good site."

Assembly on SunSpot

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Read the text of the governor's State of the State address, his proposed slots bill, SB 197, and other proposed legislation.

Review Sun coverage of the slot machine debate and other issues before the General Assembly, and contact the writers.

www.sunspot.net/assembly

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