It wasn’t easy, but Maryland’s major racetracks will soon have video slot machines.
The state Senate voted 25-21 to allow slots at Pimlico, Laurel, Rosecroft Raceway and a new track scheduled to open in 2006. A public education trust fund would receive 46 percent of the gross revenues from an estimated $1.5 billion annually.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich has already endorsed the bill, but it faces strong opposition in the House of Delegates. Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat, has vowed to kill the measure unless he wins major concessions from Ehrlich.
The Washington Post reported that the debate on gambling in Maryland has bitterly divided the General Assembly since it convened in January.
Democratic Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr. voted in favor of slots despite having signed a pledge last year not do so.
"This is probably the hardest decision in my political life," DeGrange said. "In making the decision, I know I’m going to upset some folks. But this is a way to avoid other taxes."
In past years, the Republican caucus almost unanimously opposed slots, but last week voted in favor of the bill by a 10-3 margin with one abstention.
NJ voters make call
A report in The Press of Atlantic City stated that the New Jersey Constitution specifically requires a referendum for any new form of gambling.
The decision, in effect, prohibits the state from putting video-lottery terminals at racetracks without voter approval.
The Constitution says the Legislature cannot approve "gambling of any kind . . . unless the specific kind, restrictions and control thereof have been heretofore submitted to, and authorized by a majority of the votes" in a special or general election.
In 1966 voters had to approve a change so gamblers could make horse racing bets in the evening in addition to the daytime. In 1974 they rejected statewide casino gambling, and two years later approved casinos for Atlantic City only.
Subsequent statewide votes allowed simulcast wagering at racetracks, casino-based simulcasting and Sunday horse racing provided that the track is dark at least one other day of the week.
Phoenix hosts tribes
The National Indian Gaming Association will host its 12th annual Membership Meeting and Trade Show from April 6-9 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
The NIGA gathering is expected to attract 2,500 participants from both the gaming and non-gaming Tribes.
Featured speakers will be NIGA Chairman Ernest L. Stevens and Tex G. Hall, National Congress of American Indians president.
NIGA is a non-profit trade association comprised of 184 American Indian Nations and other non-voting associate members.
Rough ”˜rhode’ in R.I.
Add West Warwick to a list of Rhode Island towns opposed to casino gambling anywhere in the state.
The rejection matched a similar resolution that was defeated by the West Warwick town council in 1999.
The resolution will be forwarded to all 39 cities and towns in the state urging those officials to oppose casino gambling.
ALSO: The Montana Senate Taxation Committee in Helena killed a pair of measures that would have raised taxes on gambling machines in the state by million of dollars.