Casino commercials likely soon on Md. air


It shouldn't be long before commercials for gambling are a familiar part of the air time mix on local radio stations, now that the Maryland attorney general's office has said such advertising is not prohibited by state law.

A local attorney had asked for the interpretation of state law on behalf of a broadcasters trade association, in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that said the federal government couldn't limit free speech about gambling.

"It's a good piece of news," said James B. Astrachan, an attorney who represents the Maryland, D.C., Delaware Broadcasters Association. "We had a good exchange of ideas with the attorney general's office. They moved quickly to respond to our needs."

Astrachan said he is checking with Prince George's and Montgomery counties to make sure that local ordinances will not present a problem, but does not foresee any obstacles to radio stations accepting advertising for out-of-state casinos and racetracks.

"What is so significant about this is it opens up a whole new category," said Chip Weinman, president of the Maryland, D.C., Delaware Broadcasters Association. "It's quite an event for the broadcasters. It's kind of like having five new car dealers show up in town on the same day wanting to buy time."

Weinman predicted that advertising revenue will be sizable.

"What this really opens up is the potential for significant ad revenue from casino hotels in Atlantic City, who look at New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington as their main drawing areas," he said. "Up to now, all they could run in those states were ads saying, 'We have nice rooms and a good buffet.' They couldn't talk about what they really did."

Many casinos stopped advertising in recent years, apparently deciding that it was ineffective to run ads since they couldn't mention gambling, Weinman said.

"Now, of course, everyone expects the floodgates are going to open," he said.

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