New Poll Shows Majority Favors Slots in Maryland

As Maryland lawmakers prepare for their 2005 legislative session, a new poll released Jan. 10 shows that Marylanders' support for slot machines has reached a new high. The poll for the Baltimore Sun revealed that 56% of voters favor slots to help relieve the state's budget deficit.

Legislators begin their 90-day session Jan. 12, and for the third straight year the debate over slots is expected to be one of the major issues. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller support slots, and a bill legalizing the machines has been approved by the state Senate the past two years. Both years it died in the House of Delegates. House Speaker Michael E. Busch has clashed repeatedly with Ehrlich and Miller over the wisdom of bringing slots to the state and the potential distribution of slots proceeds if they do come.

"The people who drive through Baltimore and see all those slots billboards from Delaware and West Virginia, I can't understand why they're not incensed," Miller was quoted as saying in the Sun. "Each one says to the driver, 'You're building schools in Delaware and West Virginia and now Pennsylvania,' and yet the kids in Maryland have to go to school in trailers."

When the newly-elected Ehrlich introduced his first slots bill three years ago, it proposed the machines at racetracks only as a way of reviving horse racing and breeding. The debate has shifted since then, and now it centers around funding education and other state priorities; helping horse racing has slipped several rungs down the ladder. Even if slots were to be legalized, it is not clear where they would be located and how much they would help the state's beleaguered racing industry.