Md. treasurer supports slot machine referendum

Unusual circumstances justify vote, Kopp says

August 12, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Maryland Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp said yesterday that she backs putting to voters the question of whether the state should legalize slot machines.

Kopp said that "if the legislature and governor can get together on a proposal," the issue should go to the public. She said she is generally not a fan of referendums, but the slots issue has many implications.

"It does seem to be one of those rare occasions when a referendum might be appropriate," she said.

Kopp, one of three Board of Public Works members, made her remarks at the start of the board's meeting.

She said former colleagues - she is a former Democratic state delegate from Montgomery County - asked her to speak out.

"Obviously, she represents the speaker's point of view," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said after the meeting, referring to House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

He also said that some pro-slots legislators told him they would not agree to Busch's proposal. It calls for a referendum on a constitutional amendment permitting 13,500 machines at six sites across the state, with operator licenses awarded through competitive bids.

The proposal differs from Ehrlich's and from past Senate-approved plans to concentrate slots at racetracks and not put the question on the ballot.

To meet the ballot deadline, the legislature would have to pass a measure within a month by a 60 percent margin in both houses during a special session.

The governor said that although he thinks the goal of the Busch proposal is to kill slots, he is continuing to review it.

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