Prince George's head doesn't want slots

House asked to keep machines out of county

March 02, 2004|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson called on the House of Delegates last night to remove his jurisdiction from the sites eligible for slot machines, saying he wants to avoid it becoming "the gambling mecca of the Washington Metropolitan area."

In a letter to all members of the Prince George's House delegation, Johnson asked the delegates to seek "local courtesy" - following the precedent set by the Senate in removing Dorchester and Worcester counties after senators representing those counties objected.

"My biggest fear, other than gambling itself, is having three or four sites in our county, and that's possible under the bill passed by the Senate," Johnson said. "All of the other counties are opting out, and we should, too."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch has said he is inclined to defer to the wishes of county delegations when it comes to where slot facilities would be allowed.

Del. Carolyn J.B. Howard, the delegation's chairwoman, said she believes the appropriate place for Johnson to make his case is to the House Ways and Means Committee when it takes up the slots legislation.

"The executive should have submitted this to the Senate when they were working on the bill," Howard said. "Now I think the right approach is that he should go before Ways and Means and share his opinion."

Nevertheless, Del. Joanne C. Benson said she will seek to have the county's delegation take up Johnson's request. "We need to send a clear signal that we don't want slots in our communities, because our communities are just as family-oriented as the other places that didn't want slots," Benson said.

The county's senators split 4-4 last week when the full Senate approved slots legislation.

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