Maryland House OKs Slots Referendum

A measure to authorize a 2008 referendum on slots has passed the Maryland House.

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a measure Nov. 16 to authorize a November 2008 referendum on slot machines in the state.

The House vote was 86-52, according to the Associated Press. The state Senate approved a similar measure Nov. 8 by a 31-15 vote; the House version now goes back to the Senate for consideration.

The House measure, according to the Associated Press, includes a provision for a majority vote in both houses, as well as a statewide referendum, if there is a future expansion of gambling.

The plan now calls for up to 15,000 slot machines at five locations--Anne Arundel County, where Laurel Park is located; Worcester County, where Ocean Downs, a harness track, is located; Baltimore; Cecil County, which borders Delaware; and a state park in western Maryland near Cumberland.

Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and Rosecroft Raceway near Washington, D.C., would not get slots. The five locations authorized by the House and Senate are those supported by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

It remains to be seen how slots revenue would be divvied up. It’s likely, however, that revenue for the racing industry would be available to all tracks and racing breeds in Maryland under a formula.

The push for slots at racetracks and other locations in the state began several years ago. Maryland is almost surrounded by states with slots or video lottery terminals; Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia racetracks have gaming machines.