Since Gov. Robert Ehrlich has turned out to be a less-than-terrific salesman for slots, Pimlico/Laurel Park owner Magna Entertainment Corp. is resorting to, basically, extortion to get slot-machine palaces at its horse-race tracks. Last Friday, as detailed in The Sun, in a private meeting Magna told Ehrlich and Senate President Mike Miller to get slots passed or the Preakness Stakes will be leaving Maryland, which is what various entities have been threatening since the mid-1990s, but the pro-slotters genuflected to their masters: "The bottom line is Magna is a business operation. It's a publicly held company, and it's got to answer to its shareholders," Ehrlich said at last Wednesday's Board of Public Works meeting. "Maryland's not making it, and to the extent Maryland's not making it, we have a problem. . . . It's not the governor threatening. It's a fact."

The Third Floor is pretty much OK with slots at racetracks but doesn't like corporate extortion, so props then to House Speaker Michael Busch, who's totally getting beaten up on this and could use some love, for not caving: "This is a big set-up," he tells The Sun. "Basically, this is Mike Miller and Bob Ehrlich trying to blame somebody else for the fact that they didn't take the House bill."

Slots talk means, of course, exasperation from Dan Rodricks ("[I]t's all so transparent and grotesque, without an ounce of political courage or morality. So, fine. Let's just go with the Magna flow.") and grandstanding from Michael Olesker ("[T]hat thin line is the same problem we face on slots: the difference between our false piety and what's now characterized as political and economic necessity."). And speaking of slots, mark Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume down as for.

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