- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2002

This year's proposal for a constitutional amendment that would allow slot machines at horse racing tracks probably won't go anywhere, legislative leaders say. Even its sponsor, Delegate Howard P. Rawlings, is skeptical about the measure's chances, especially in this election year.
Yet people on both sides of the issue are preparing for a debate this session that could be a rehearsal for next year, when anti-slots Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening is gone.
"I think it's important to lay out the parameters of this discussion," said Mr. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
A draft of the bill circulating among lawmakers last week would provide for a statewide referendum on whether slots should be allowed at four racetracks: Laurel Park, Pimlico, Rosecroft and the planned Western Maryland track in Allegany County.
As a proposed constitutional amendment, it would be exempt from the governor's veto. It also would require a supermajority of 60 percent in both the House and Senate for passage.
Even if approved by voters overall, slots cannot not be installed in any jurisdiction unless local voters consented, Mr. Rawlings said.
The law would require half of the proceeds to be spent on public schools and libraries, he said. The rest would be used to fatten purses at racetracks and provide other assistance to the state's horse racing industry.
The amount of money bet at state racetracks is declining, a trend many in the industry blame on the lure of slot machines at the Delaware Park racetrack in Wilmington, Del.; Harrington Raceway in Harrington, Del., and Charles Town Races in Charles Town, W.Va.
The Maryland Racing Commission's approval in November of a new track in Allegany County heightened speculation about slots, although the licensee, Delaware Park owner William Rickman Jr., insists he won't seek them.
Allegany County's political lion, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., said he supports the concept of racetrack slots. But he gave Mr. Rawlings' bill no chance of passage: "It's not going to have any action taken on it this year."

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