- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — The new chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority yesterday suggested that downtown Baltimore would be a good location for a combination slot-machine facility, entertainment complex and racetrack.

Carl Wright, a Baltimore businessman appointed to the authority by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said he envisions a destination resort that would attract out-of-state residents to Maryland.

“I do think that idea has merit,” Mr. Wright said at a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, which is scheduled to vote next month on a slot-machine proposal for the 2004 legislative session.

The Camden Yards area, home of the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, would be a prime location for a gambling complex, he said.

Mr. Wright said he was speaking for himself, not the Ehrlich administration, in suggesting construction of a downtown complex. Mr. Ehrlich said yesterday that he would consider off-track locations.

Mr. Ehrlich last year proposed that slot machines be located only at racetracks.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel County Democrat, who played the primary role in killing the governor’s slot bill during the 2003 session, says if the state does legalize slot machines next year, it should consider not only racetracks but off-track locations.

Those locations would have fewer than the 3,500 machines proposed by Mr. Ehrlich at Pimlico, Laurel and Rosecroft racetracks, Mr. Busch said.

The governor yesterday said he would “be open to one or two off-track venues” for slot machines. But he wants slot machines located at tracks to help save the racing industry, which is suffering from competition from tracks in Delaware and West Virginia that share revenue from slot machines with state governments.

Mr. Busch asked the Ways and Means Committee to study the gambling issue and report back to the House of Delegates in January on whether Maryland should authorize slot machines and where they should be located if the are legalized.

Delegate Sheila Hixson, Montgomery County Democrat and chairman of the committee, said she had not heard of Mr. Wright’s proposal before he spoke to the committee and called it an interesting idea.

She said a downtown site might be preferable to city residents who worry about traffic congestion and crime problems that could result from building a gambling facility with 3,500 slot machines in a residential neighborhood.

The Ways and Means Committee will begin making decisions on the future of slot machine gambling at a two-day meeting Dec. 8 and 9, Miss Hixson said.

Under Mr. Ehrlich’s plan, slot machines would be owned and operated by the companies that own the racetracks. Some slot machine supporters think the state should build some of the facilities and let the State Lottery Agency oversee the operations.

Richard Slosson, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, told the Ways and Means Committee his agency has the experience and the track record to build slots facilities.

“We think we can get them built more quickly than anyone else,” he said.

The authority has built 13 projects, including the two stadiums at Camden Yards, and is managing three other projects — the Montgomery County Conference Center, the Hippodrome Performing Arts Center and Camden Station at Camden Yards.

Mr. Slosson said all the projects came in on time and under budget.

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