Slots failure hurts presence at Preakness, Ehrlich says

Md. will have fewer tents at race this year, he says

April 14, 2005|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. fired another round of criticism at the legislative leadership yesterday for failure to pass a slot machine bill, saying the gambling revenue could have helped avoid a decision by the state Board of Public Works to decrease the state's presence at the Preakness.

Instead of renting the usual 10 tents during the Preakness to promote Maryland, the state will lease five at a cost of $144,875 because owners of Pimlico Race Course raised the price for the space.

The tents are used to entertain state, national and foreign dignitaries who often purchase horses from Maryland breeders and consider other deals with the state. The cost rose 15 percent, according to Greg Massoni, an Ehrlich spokesman.

The Preakness is "the best day to be governor because you get to market Maryland," Ehrlich said at yesterday's Board of Public Works meeting. "We're able to close deals.

"Some people downstairs do not get it," he said. "Maybe someone downstairs [in the legislature] will understand finally before the Preakness leaves. It's a serious situation, and I'm frustrated."

Feigning ignorance, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer asked, "Did the slot machine bill pass?"

Ehrlich responded sarcastically: "It was a good day for Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York and West Virginia."

The House of Delegates and the Senate passed different slots measures, but the two bodies could not agree on a compromise. The legislation died with the close of the legislative session at midnight Monday.

Ehrlich and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller criticized House Speaker Michael E. Busch, saying he refused to negotiate on the issue.

W. Minor Carter, an anti-slots lobbyist, said in an interview that he did not see any relation between slots and the cost of tents at the Preakness.

"The problem with slots is simply no one wants them in their back yard," Carter said.

In other matters before the board, the three-member panel approved $37 million for engineering design work for Interstate 95 and $25 million for general engineering consulting for the Intercounty Connector.

The board also affirmed the name change for the Baltimore Zoo, to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

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