Governor, comptroller stem instant lottery growth


Three weeks after threatening to veto any legislation allowing casinos in Maryland, Gov. Parris N. Glendening has applied the brakes to two other proposals to expand legalized gambling.

The governor teamed with state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein yesterday to pull the plug on a $3.8 million contract that would have authorized the State Lottery Agency to buy up to 500 instant ticket vending machines.

Both men said they were concerned that minors have access to the 300 instant ticket machines already in supermarkets and other businesses around the state and said they did not want to expand their availability.

The governor also disclosed that, in a separate action last week, he directed the Maryland Racing Commission to halt -- at least for now -- a pilot program to test the feasibility of allowing Maryland residents to bet on horse races from the comfort and privacy of their homes through the use of interactive television.

That program, Mr. Glendening said, would have involved "only 25 homes, but the clear intention was to get this going. So, we put a halt to that."

In all three cases -- casino gambling, expansion of the instant ticket machines, and home betting on horse racing -- the governor said he wants the proposals tabled for further study, not necessarily killed.

But the governor's reluctance to move ahead quickly with gambling proposals contrasts sharply with the actions of his predecessor, William Donald Schaefer, who supported a variety of new or expanded forms of gambling during his eight years in office.

"During the campaign, I expressed reservations about Maryland's headlong rush into expanded gambling," Mr. Glendening said after the ticket-dispensing machine contract was pulled off yesterday's Board of Public Works agenda in the face of opposition from the governor and the comptroller.

"My comment to the treasurer [state Treasurer Lucille Maurer, the third member of the board] was that unless she had three votes in her pocket, I would assume that this contract was dead," the governor said.

Lottery spokesman Carroll H. Hynson Jr. said it was impossible to estimate how much revenue the state might lose by not having the additional machines.

He said the machines are part of the "mix" of methods used by the Lottery Agency to sell tickets, and he said that not expanding their number will not necessarily result in any significant revenue loss.

Study panel proposed

Last month, when the General Assembly showed interest in passing bills this session to authorize casino or riverboat gambling in Maryland, the governor proposed instead a commission to study all aspects of legalized gambling over the next year.

He said yesterday he wants the use of instant ticket machines and related lottery issues, as well as horse racing proposals such as the in-home betting, to be part of that study.

"Those two items, combined with the change of direction [on casino gambling], means that at least this year we're going to change the trend of the last four years," Mr. Glendening said.

It was Mr. Schaefer who signed the bill authorizing slot machine gambling in fraternal and veterans clubs on the Eastern Shore and who instituted the controversial Keno game, as well as other games and promotions designed to lure more Marylanders to play the state-run lottery.

Also during the Schaefer years, wagering on horse racing was expanded from at-the-track betting to include intertrack betting, simulcast betting on races at out-of-state tracks, and betting from off-track parlors.

De Francis pleased

Joseph A. De Francis, president and chief executive officer of the state's two thoroughbred tracks, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and Laurel Park, said he welcomed the governor's proposed study. He said in-home betting via interactive television is so early in the development stage that the 25-home pilot program that the governor ordered stopped had not yet been put into place.

He said the concept is not much different from betting on races by telephone, which Maryland's Racing Commission has regulatory authority to implement.

"What we're doing right now is something in a petri dish," Mr. De Francis said. "We're so far away from having something that is commercially viable that I have no reservations whatsoever about everybody studying it in context of a much broader and comprehensive gaming policy."

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