After hearing keno described as a polluter of morals -- and themselves as a bunch of hypocrites -- state senators did as expected yesterday and approved a bill that would pull the plug on the electronic lottery game at the end of the year.
But while it allowed senators to take a stand, yesterday's 31-12 vote is probably meaningless. On Tuesday, a House subcommittee voted unanimously to kill all four House bills that were aimed at ending keno.
That means there is little chance the Senate's anti-keno measure will even get a hearing in the House, and it is likely Maryland will continue to rely on revenues from the controversial game.
Nevertheless, close to a third of the Senate's 47 members weighed in with their opinions during more than an hour of debate about keno, the fast-paced State Lottery game that has been available at hundreds of bars, restaurants and bowling alleys statewide since January.
"It's an addictive game," said Sen. Arthur Dorman, D-Prince George's. "If this is the only way to pay for the state government, then we are in bad shape in the state of Maryland."
Sen. John A. Pica, D-Baltimore, argued that ending keno would help deter crime by removing a temptation: bar patrons with pockets full of keno winnings that could entice thieves. Sen. Mary H. Boergers, D-Montgomery, said keno shouldn't be available where people are drinking and might lose control of their anti-gambling inhibitions.
And Sen. Bernie Fowler, D-Calvert, called the anti-keno measure "anti-pollution" legislation, saying that the game's presence sends out the wrong message.
"We are telling our young people you can get something for nothing," Mr. Fowler said.
The governor is counting on $100 million from keno to balance his proposed budget for fiscal 1994, and he has said that anyone who wants to end the game should specify what he or she would cut to make up for the lost revenue. But no one was offering specific budget cuts in the discussion on the Senate floor yesterday.
Both Senate and House leaders have said they do intend to cut $100 million from the governor's budget.
The leadership has made clear, however, that it believes that money is needed to create a financial cushion for the state. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, has said the legislature should find an additional $100 million in cuts so that keno can be stopped. But House leaders are known to favor keeping the game to build up the state's reserves.
Keno did have some proponents yesterday, many of them saying that the state has already gone so far down the gambling road that it is too late to turn back now.
"This is a way today that states are able to make money," said Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery. "It would be a mistake for us at this point to do away with keno. The money we make from it can be used for worthwhile programs."
"When we voted to start the lottery, we opted to begin gambling," Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, said of the decision made more than 20 years ago. "If we're going to remove keno, then remove all [lottery games,]" Mr. Blount said.
SENATE ROLL CALL VOTE ON KENO
The Maryland Senate voted yesterday to end the state's keno lottery game on Dec. 31. Nothing will happen to keno, however, unless the House takes similar action -- which is not expected. A "yea" vote is a vote to end
Voting Yea (31)
Amoss, William H., D-Harford
Baker, Walter M., D-Cecil
Boergers, Mary H., D-Montgomery
Boozer, F. Vernon, R-Balt. Co.
Bromwell, Thomas L., D-Balt. Co.
Cade, John A., R-Anne Arundel
Denis, Howard A., R-Montgomery
Derr, John W., R-Frederick
Dorman, Arthur, D-P. George's
Fowler, Bernie, D-Calvert
Freeman, Habern, D-Harford
Garrott, Idamae, D-Montgomery
Hafer, John, R-Allegany
Haines, Larry E., R-Carroll
Hughes, Ralph M., D-Baltimore
Lapides, Julian L., D-Baltimore
Malkus, Frederick Jr., D-Dorch.
McCabe, Christopher, R-Howard
Miller, Mike Jr., D-P. George's
Munson, Donald F., R-Wash.
O'Reilly, Thomas, D-P. George's
Pica, John A. Jr., D-Baltimore
Piccinini, Janice, D-Balt. Co.
Ruben, Ida G., D-Montgomery
Simpson, James C., D-Charles
Smelser, Charles H., D-Carroll
Stoltzfus, J. Lowell, R-Somerset
Stone, Norman R., D-Balt. Co.
Trotter, Decatur, D-P. George's
Wagner, Michael J., D-A. Arundel
Winegrad, Gerald, D-A. Arundel
Voting Nay (12)
Blount, Clarence W., D-Baltimore
Collins, Michael J., D-Balt. Co.
Della, George W. Jr., D-Baltimore
Green, Leo E., D-P. George's
Hoffman, Barbara, D-Baltimore
Hollinger, Paula C., D-Balt. Co.
Jimeno, Philip, D-Anne Arundel
Lawlah, Gloria, D-P. George's
Levitan, Laurence, D-Mont.
Murphy, Nancy L., D-Balt. Co.
Yeager, Thomas M., D-Howard
Young, Larry, D-Baltimore
Excused from voting (4)
Irby, Nathan C. Jr., D-Baltimore
Miedusiewski, A. Joe, D-Balt.
Sher, Patricia R., D-Montgomery
Tignor, Beatrice, D-P. George's