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Pro-slots forces get MACO backing

Supporters of a referendum that would allow slot machine gambling in Maryland picked up another endorsement Wednesday from the Maryland Association of Counties.

That means in one month, the pro-slots folks have lined up support from two of the state's major power centers -- MACO and the Maryland State Teachers' Association, the second of which stirred controversy because of the subtle urgings of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

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The MACO endorsement has not come as a surprise to many in the anti-slots camp, who note that the association is run by none other than Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, who happens to be a close ally of Gov. Martin O'Malley.

And further, as we've written, the pro-slots folks have yet to win over another potentially powerful group: the operators of race tracks who stand to reap a windfall if voters approve of slots.

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Maryland Association of Counties Votes to Support Slots

Taxpayers Face Reduction in Services or Tax Increase if Referendum Fails

Towson, MD - Board members of the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) passed a resolution on Wednesday, March 26 to support the slots referendum this November.  The decision to endorse comes after several months of discussion and analysis of the referendum benefits as well as the serious problems that schools and local governments would face if the referendum fails.  The specific wording of the resolution was:  Consistent with MACo's adopted position on video lottery terminals, MACo shall be actively involved the effort to pass the slots referendum.  "Local governments have a direct interest in the passage of the slots referendum this year," stated Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, MACo President.  "Slots will generate approximately $660 million in new education funding.  Without this source of revenue, taxpayers across Maryland will be facing either severe reduction of services or additional tax increases.  Neither of those options is acceptable."

In its discussion, MACo leaders discussed the importance of keeping Maryland dollars in Maryland.  Charles Town Race Track in West Virginia generated $448 million in gross revenue in 2006.  According to the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, roughly $200 million of those proceeds came directly from Maryland taxpayers.  Delaware's racetracks also drained significant Maryland dollars out of the state.  According to Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Delaware tracks generated $651 million in 2006, with more than 30% or approximately $200 million coming from Marylanders.  "In those two states alone, we are talking about more than $400 million in revenue that is leaving Maryland.  Those funds could be used to improve services for families in counties all across the state," said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

The House Ways and Means Committee estimates that approximately 9,000 new jobs will be created in the horse industry in Maryland if the referendum passes.  In addition to these jobs, 1.5% of the revenue, or approximately $20.9 million, of the slots revenue will be dedicated for investment in small, minority, and women-owned businesses in the state.

"Elected leaders representing very different jurisdictions in the state came together and vowed to work diligently to support this November's referendum," stated Wilson Parran, President of the Board of Commissioners in Calvert County and First Vice President of MACo.  "All of us know how important the slots revenue is to sustain services to families in our communities, and we will do whatever we can to make sure this referendum passes."

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