Standing against slots

October 05, 2005

The Frederick County Commission took a smart stand last week against slot machines in that county - passing Maryland's first zoning ban on such gambling. In formally rejecting slots, the council joined local politicians in Prince George's and Cecil counties who've taken similarly laudable votes. In certain other counties, such as Montgomery and Howard, slots have not been in play from the start. All are rightly calculating that the social costs outweigh any revenues.

Such local political opposition should remind Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. why his drive to legalize these machines has been thwarted in Annapolis the last three General Assembly sessions: Folks rarely want slots anywhere near their homes.

In Frederick's case, this is hardly theoretical: A slots bill passed by the House this year (with five of six Frederick County delegates voting for it) would have put 2,500 machines there. Now, if that bill were to pass, the governor would have to take the unpopular step of pre-empting local zoning to put the machines in most of the county.

That's not the case, however, in the city of Frederick, where developer William M. Rickman Jr., who controls slots at a Delaware racetrack and who is angling for a Maryland license, happens to own a potential site. The Frederick County Commission vote doesn't apply to municipalities.

So now it's up to the city of Frederick to take the same stand, just as it's about to elect a new mayor and new set of aldermen Nov. 1. Unfortunately, the city's two mayoral candidates have not come out strongly against slots - though Democrat Ronald N. Young is more uncomfortable with slots in the city than Republican William "Jeff" Holtzinger. In ducking the issue so far, both are in error. County leaders have stood up, and any would-be Frederick mayor ought to be eager to form a united front with the county against slots.

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