Slots Issue

Zoning Issue Could Put a Huge Problem on Slots Issue in Maryland

On November 22nd, 2007, zoning problems could potentially kill the biggest slot machine proposed gaming location in the state, even if voters approve of expanded gaming proposal in a 2008 referendum. If the voters approved of the referendum, the constitution of Maryland would allow people to play slot machines in five locations like the area near the Route 295.

That would make Laurel Park, a west county horse racing track eligible to host 4,750 slot machines that would be placed under a companion proposal that states the details of a slots program. But a modification to the final legislation by Del. A. Wade Kach, a Republican from Baltimore commented that a video lottery facility shall follow with all planning and zoning regulations of the local jurisdiction.

County Executive John R. Leopold commented that he has discussed the proposal with their planning and zoning department and present regulations would not allow the slot machines. Approving the slot machines has been a point of contention for years in the State House and Gov. Martin O’Malley, Speaker Michael E. Busch, Democrat-Annapolis and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. Democrat-Calvert, compromised on the referendum as a way to finally make some results on the issue.

Miller had some reservations about leaving the slots issue to voters and reluctantly approved of the plan after some lobbying from G. O’Malley. The profit from the slot machines is important to planning the budget of the state. By 2012, about $500 million of gaming money would be utilized by the state to support education.

If state voters approve of the plan, it would only be the start of the slots battle in Anne Arundel County. Mr. Leopold has been a staunch critic of the slot machines and commented that they will only consider changing the zoning rules after the residents vote on the issue in 2008.

Regardless of the backing of the slot machines at Laurel Park, residents around the racing track want the county to have some kind of zoning regulation that will strictly implement what kinds of businesses can open in the area. Even without the slot machines in the equation, some people just do not want any gaming businesses in the area. The Jessup/Maryland City Small Area plan urges the county to support the racing track.

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