All's fair at the State Fair, the opposing sides of the slots fight agreed yesterday.
The group For Maryland, For Our Future, which was formed to work for passage of November's referendum on the legalization of slot machines, has requested a booth at the Maryland State Fair at which it can make its case. That move clears the way for fair management to allow StopSlots Maryland to have a booth in the Exhibit Hall.
Howard M. "Max" Mosner, fair president and chief executive officer, said both groups would get booths at no cost, and that he would make sure they weren't next to each other. Previously, he had rejected StopSlots request to have a booth at the fair unless the pro-slots side had one, too.
"We try to let everyone have their opportunity to be heard, so this is no different," Mosner said.
The anti-slots camp had previously cried foul, saying that its rights to free speech should not be dependent on another group. StopSlots head Aaron Meisner said he's still not thrilled, and he said he's sure that if the roles had been reversed, the fair would have given the pro-slots cause a booth with no questions asked.
"While we're very happy, and we feel it's a fair solution, I think it's a little bit of a lesson for all of us in how this lobby works and how much influence it exerts," Meisner said.
Mosner acknowledged that his board solidly supports slots - the fair stands to gain financially if voters approve the slots referendum, through enhanced purses for the horse races that run at the Timonium fairgrounds each summer as well as funds for capital improvements.
The pro-slots camp appeared somewhat ambivalent about appearing at the fair.
"We look forward to a civil dialogue during the days the fair is open to the people of Maryland," Frederick W. Puddester, chairman of For Maryland, For Our Future, wrote in a letter to Mosner. "While we think most of our neighbors will be interested in the more entertaining pursuits at the State Fair, we look forward to being there to make our case."