Maryland Voters Favor Slots at Tracks to Help Schools

Concerns about under-funded education programs could make slot machines more attractive to Maryland legislature this year, according to poll results released today.

The poll, commissioned by the Baltimore Sun, showed 54% of 800 registered voters contacted by telephone said they favored a state constitutional amendment allowing slot machines provided a portion of the proceeds were earmarked for education. The slot machine amendment was opposed by 39% of those polled and 6% said they weren't sure. The poll has a 3.5% margin of error.

Maryland voters are so concerned about education that 52% said they would be willing to pay higher taxes provided the additional money went toward improving schools.

"The fundamental concern of the quality of schools in Maryland is making slots more politically palatable, especially in a time of economic uncertainty," said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Inc., which conducted the poll.

State Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings (D-Baltimore), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has said he will sponsor a bill authorizing a November referendum on a constitution amendment that would allow slot machines at racetracks and possibly other locations. But even Rawlings is skeptical the bill will become law considering Gov. Parris Glendening?s steadfast position of no slots, no exceptions" and that four out of 10 voters apparently oppose the idea.

"That, to most elected officials, who prefer not having controversial elections, would considered significant opposition," Rawlings told the Sun.

On the other hand, Rawlings does see a glimmer of hope. If Pennsylvania approves slot machines, then Maryland would be the only state in the region without them. Also a special state panel has recommended that Maryland spend an additional $1.1 billion annually on its public schools.

" think these pressures, along with the fiscal climate that we're in, could change some minds," Rawlings said.