Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch brought an anti-slots gambling message to an East Baltimore church last night, joining an opposition campaign begun by a city religious-based group -- the first publicly organized effort against the governor's gambling proposal.
Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, said slots proposed for Pimlico Race Course, near the struggling Park Heights area, is more than the city can handle. "A community that has a huge crisis with drug addiction, a huge crisis with crime ... adding slots is just a tremendous burden to put on them," Busch said.
He appeared at St. Paul Community Church at the request of the church's pastor, the Rev. Gregory Perkins, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which has begun the opposition campaign.
Busch and members of the alliance arranged the meeting to get word out about their plans to fight the slots proposal of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
The new Republican administration has had a one-month head start on the opposition. Only recently has the administration begun to run into problems, when the governor's office acknowledged failing to study the impact of slot gambling on communities where the racetracks that would have the machines are located.
Busch and Perkins urged the approximately 20 ministers in attendance to rally opposition to slots within their congregations. They said that research from other cities, such as Atlantic City, N.J., suggests that slots would induce more crime, lower housing values and hurt small businesses near the tracks.
Meanwhile, more than 60 community leaders from the Pimlico area attended a meeting in Mount Washington with state Sen. Lisa A. Gladden and Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, both District 41 Democrats, and voiced an array of concerns over the slots proposal's potential impact on local traffic, trash and public safety -- but few voicing outright opposition. Both legislators said they would vote against slots unless the needs of the community were satisfied.
Sun staff writer Michael Dresser contributed to this article.