Expanding Gambling Foes Meet in Mid-Atlantic Region

Maryland officials who oppose expanded gambling met with lawmakers and activists in Pennsylvania April 28 in the hope of combating any push for racetrack slot machines or casinos.

"If it passes in Pennsylvania, it's going to pass in Maryland," Del. Curtis Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat, told the Baltimore Sun after a two-hour meeting in Harrisburg, Pa. "If we can stop it in Pennsylvania, we can stop it again in Maryland as well."

Legislation to authorize expanded gambling in Maryland failed to pass during the recent legislative session. The Pennsylvania legislature could soon act on a measure to authorize slots at eight racetracks--four of which haven't been built yet--and non-track locations in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Pocono mountain region in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The legislation, supported by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, could be voted on in June, the Sun reported.

Del. Peter Franchot, who headed the Maryland group, told the Pennsylvanians to reject the idea promoted by the gambling industry that the expansion of gambling is inevitable. He said support for slots in Maryland evaporated when talk shifted from putting casinos in largely poor, predominantly African-American communities to putting them in more affluent suburban areas.

A gambling proponent in Pennsylvania dismissed the visit by Marylanders as "an act of desperation" by anti-gambling forces.

"If I'm not mistaken, Maryland is facing a $1-billion budget shortfall and a disintegrating horse racing industry," Tom Kauffman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association, told the newspaper. "If that's what they're here to sell, we don't want any."

Pennsylvania and Maryland are border states, and they also border West Virginia, where racetracks have video lottery terminals. Charles Town Races & Slots, located not far from Maryland and Pennsylvania, in particular has been problematic for nearby tracks because purses there are so lucrative.