For third time, Senate OKs slots bill

As in other years, measure faces tough fight in House

February 19, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

The state Senate easily passed a slot machine gambling bill yesterday, setting the stage for intense debates next week in the House of Delegates, where slots bills have died in each of the past two years.

The proposal to put up to 15,500 slot machines at seven locations around the state passed 26-21, about the same margin as in each of the past two years.

Unlike previous legislation, this bill does not specify locations for the slots parlors, but critics have said the requirement that four locations be at racetracks all but guarantees slots at Pimlico, Laurel, Rosecroft and a track yet to be built in Allegany County.

Attempts this week in the Senate to exempt Prince George's County, Timonium and downtown Baltimore from contention for slots venues failed, and yesterday's vote was conducted with little discussion.

Sen. Paul G. Pinskey, a Prince George's County Democrat, said someone should make the case against slots, and he did so, conceding that after three years of debate, "obviously, no minds are going to be changed at this point."

Sen. Verna L. Jones, a Baltimore Democrat, explained her pro-slots vote by saying the bill would provide needed revenue for the state and includes protections for affected communities. She, like other legislators, said she is eager to move on to other issues.

"I no longer want it distracting the business of the Senate," she said.

The focus now shifts to the House, where delegates say they hope to hold a committee vote on their version of a slots bill early next week.

"I'd like to get a bill to the committee Monday evening so Ways and Means can vote on a bill up or down," said Del. Clarence Davis, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the subcommittee dealing with slots. "I think we can come up with something."

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