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Gambling bill gains groups win exemptions STATE HOUSE REPORT


Legislation designed to regulate gambling in Maryland cleared a House panel yesterday, although with changes that would exempt many games of chance run by fraternal organizations and charities.

Under the measure, regulations would not apply to bingo games run by organizations that do not employ private operators. Also exempt would be such activities as raffles, chance books and paddle wheels.

The regulations would cover all commercial bingo parlors, groups that hire private firms to run their bingo games, and organizations that have slot machines, casino nights, tip jars and game boards.

The measure, pushed by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, sailed through the Judiciary Committee on a 20-1 vote.

"The speaker's position is that [gambling] is so out of control that the state should step in with a very effective mechanism to control gambling," said Speaker Pro Tem Gary R. Alexander, D-Prince George's, who served on the working group.

The House speaker endorsed the subcommittee's changes. "I'm satisfied and delighted with the way they've done it," he said.

The original measure would have regulated all forms of gambling -- except lotteries and horse racing -- through a five-member state gambling control board that would issue licenses and assess fees. Lotteries and racing already are under state control.

The changes came as a result of complaints from fraternal and charitable groups that they already are subject to county gambling regulations. Committee staffers also said the real concerns are commercial gambling, slot machines, tip jars and casino games.

However, should it receive a complaint, the state board would have the power to investigate any organization that conducts gambling. The board may ask the group to submit a report on its activities.

The legislation calls upon the board, whose members would be appointed by the governor, to issue licenses by Jan. 1, 1994.

Meanwhile, the legislation also would create a 10-member legislative panel to review the activities of the board.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer is supporting the measure. But whether the gambling control measure will win support in the Senate is uncertain, since Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil, has expressed reservations about the measure.

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