Lobbyists set to go for gold


That's the new rallying cry in Annapolis - at least for the State House lobbying corps who see a potentially huge payoff coming in the next few years.


We're talking, of course, about casino-style gambling.

Back in the mid-1990s, when it looked as if Maryland might take the plunge into the world of blackjack and slot machines, casino companies hired just about every big-name lobbyist in the capital.


The companies even attempted to carve up the state. One company sent a representative to Cumberland while others sent troops to Cambridge, Cecil County and downtown Baltimore.

The big paydays for lobbyists essentially stopped once Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who had flirted with the idea of legalizing slots, slammed the door shut in 1996.

Now, with Glendening leaving office after next year, that door has been cracked open as various legislative leaders begin talking about the issue again. And last night, Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced a bill to legalize slots at four locations in Maryland.

Once again, State House lobbyists are quivering in their tasseled loafers at the prospect of landing a casino company as a client.

Thursday, the action picked up as the Senate's newly formed committee on gambling - or the slightly gentler "gaming," as the casinos and some legislators like to call it - met for the first time.

As the members of the panel assembled, they looked at an audience made up of almost exclusively of two Annapolis subgroups: reporters and lobbyists.

"It made me want to throw up," a lawmaker said later - referring, we hope, to the dozen lobbyists.

Naturally, the state's horse tracks, which have been angling for years for the right to install slot machines - and make a king's ransom in the process - had their representatives in attendance.


But other lobbyists sat in with only one thought in mind: How can I land a client during the great gambling debate?

In the end, the committee did little but review past reviews of the issue - and crack a few jokes.

Baltimore County Sen. Michael J. Collins, co-chairman of the panel and a big blackjack fan, suggested the committee "might want to sharpen our skills by playing some blackjack, and I'll be the house."

As the discussion veered into the booming world of Internet gambling, Sen. Patrick J. Hogan of Montgomery County clicked a few buttons on his laptop computer and seemed to quickly find an online casino site.

"Just won my first hand," Hogan announced.

Two senators use TV ad to seek money for cause


As lawmakers begin dissecting the governor's proposed spending package in various committee rooms, a couple of budget-savvy senators have taken one pointed money request on the air.

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman of Baltimore, chairwoman of the Senate budget committee, and Sen. Thomas M. Middleton of Charles County, a committee member, appear in a 30-second television ad for Maryland Works, a statewide association that helps people with disabilities find work.

"Over 90,000 Marylanders with disabilities are unemployed. The majority of them want to work," Hoffman says, standing in front of the State House.

The spot is running on WJZ (Channel 13) and Comcast cable, which is treating it as a public service announcement. Hoffman also described it as a "PSA."

The governor might beg to differ; the ad closes by asking viewers to write or call Glendening and urge him "to budget adequate resources" for disabled people.

Michael Morrill, Glendening's spokesman, responded coolly to the televised plea.


"The governor thinks it's a nice idea - if we had enough money," he said. "I would also point out that these are some of the same people who have been criticizing the governor for spending too much."