Duncan offers a slot machines guarantee

If elected governor, he will veto any bill to expand gambling in state, the Democrat says

June 02, 2006|By ANDREW A. GREEN | ANDREW A. GREEN,SUN REPORTER

SILVER SPRING -- Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a longtime foe of legalizing slot machines, offered Marylanders a guarantee yesterday: If voters send him to Annapolis, he will veto any bill to expand gambling in the state.

"If I'm elected governor, the debate over slot machines and casino gambling ends the day I enter office, guaranteed," Duncan said during a media event here to highlight his anti-gambling views.

Slots faded as an issue during this year's General Assembly session as the state's budget surplus made the need for more revenue less pressing. But Duncan, a Democrat, signaled that he will use his stance to draw a contrast with his opponents in the gubernatorial race.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is the state's chief slots backer, introducing slots bills during each of his four years in office. The House of Delegates defeated each of them.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, Duncan's opponent in the Democratic primary, has endorsed a limited slots program at racetracks.

O'Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the mayor is in favor of a smaller number of machines than Ehrlich has proposed and does not want to make the state budget dependent on slots revenue.

"The mayor's position on slots is clear," Abbruzzese said. "He supports a limited number of slots at the racetrack for the purpose of saving horse-racing jobs in the state of Maryland and once again making Maryland horse racing competitive with surrounding states."

Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver declined to comment.

Aaron Meisner, former chairman of Stop Slots Maryland, said the state needs a governor who is unequivocally opposed to expanded gambling.

"One can no more compromise with the gambling industry than one can compromise with a hungry shark who smells the first drop of blood in the water," Meisner said.

To make the point that his position is unique in the governor's race, Duncan brought with him the cardboard cutouts of Ehrlich and O'Malley that he has been using in television commercials to lampoon his rivals.

"This guy is wrong, but at least he's upfront about it," Duncan said, pointing to the cutout of Ehrlich.

Duncan said O'Malley, his rival for the Democratic nomination, is trying to play both sides of the issue.

"There's no middle ground on slots or casinos," he said. "You're either for them or you're against them."

The O'Malley campaign showed up with a cardboard cutout of its own, one of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Duncan announced last week that he was returning $20,000 in contributions Abramoff funneled to him through companies in Saipan and Guam.

The Washington Post has reported that the donations were received as Duncan was deciding to lease a shuttered public school to a yeshiva on whose board Abramoff served.

As Duncan joined supporters behind a podium in an open space near a downtown shopping center, an O'Malley supporter popped up on a restaurant terrace above him with a cutout of the lobbyist, wearing a fedora and atrench coat while scowling down on the scene and holding a sign that read, "I Duncan & Gambling."

andy.green@baltsun.com

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