Does Maryland racing need slots?

Slots mean revenue for state, tracks, It is essential to the health of the horse racing industry in Maryland that the state enters the real world and provides Marylanders a local outlet for their interest in gambling -- and, more specifically, slot machines.

I have visited the Charles Town, W.Va., track many times, both as a spectator and as a horse-owner. Since the advent of slot machines, purses are larger, activity has grown and the local economy has received a much-needed shot in the arm.


Our otherwise liberal governor is very short-sighted in continuing his opposition to gambling, even as citizens are accepting slot machines as just another form of entertainment like bingo and keno.

John Harrison Jr., Columbia


I support legalizing slot machines at race tracks in Maryland. This would not only create hundreds of jobs for Marylanders, but provide millions of dollars for schools and other programs.

Slots in Delaware and West Virginia churn out enormous sums of money, which lessens the burden on those states' taxpayers.

I am extremely pleased that state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has created a committee to take up this issue.

I am sure Mr. Miller has seen, as I have seen, buses by the hundreds taking Maryland citizens up Interstate 95. Those buses are headed for Delaware and New Jersey, with patrons who will spend Maryland money in those states.

We have fed our neighboring states long enough. It's time we kept that money home.

Dion F. Guthrie, Rumsey Island

Slot machines in Maryland are long overdue. Aside from the tremendous revenue they would bring the state, slots could improve the quality of Maryland racing.

With better purses, we would be able to get more trainers to run at our tracks.


Do-gooders will harp on the fact that people will gamble away their rent and food money, but this is probably only 2 percent of the people who gamble.

What about the other 98 percent, who can control their betting, and are being deprived of the chance to enjoy themselves?

Charles F. Schafer, Baltimore

This is a no-brainer: Maryland is losing a great deal of revenue, and slots should be installed at Maryland tracks.

But I believe gambling should stop at slots at race tracks. We should allow no other forms of gambling at these sites.

Thomas Norris, Bel Air


There is no question Maryland is losing big bucks to our neighboring states through slots. Many of our tax-and-spend legislators are foaming at the mouth to grab those elusive greenbacks.

The problem is, one doesn't make money from this form of gambling. The odds are against you.

An all-too-common-common scenario is: Mommy and daddy feed Mr. and Mrs. Slot one-fourth of their paychecks. The slots regurgitate about one-half of that. Mommy and daddy are then one-eighth of their check in the hole.

Who wins and who loses?

Tom Yingling, Westminster

Maryland needs to plug the dike and reduce the flood of money flowing into Delaware.


I've visited Delaware Park and you can hardly throw a quarter in its parking lot without hitting a Maryland-tagged car.

This state already condones gambling via the lottery and related games of chance.

What is it about slots that is so terrible we keep sending Maryland money over the state line by the car and busload?

Herb Butler, Perry Hall

Do I think Maryland's tracks need slots to compete?

Is the Pope Catholic? Is the rabbi Jewish?


Robert Rosen, Ellicott City

To me this is a no-brainer. We have gambling now; just look in just about any bar or restaurant.

The real question is: Who should benefit from this lucrative business? My answer is, the overtaxed people of Maryland.

The state should let the tracks have slot machines on their premises, but collect most of the profits for tax relief for Maryland's people.

J. E. Barrett, Baltimore

The Delaware and Charles Town, W.Va., tracks draw a lot of Maryland customers. With slots in Maryland, our tracks would compete on a more equitable basis.


Tracks in Maryland would have to change quite a bit in catering to their customers, too. But it would be worth the change.

George Mohr, Towson

Maryland race tracks should add slot machines, modernize and improve their facilities.

In addition, the state should allocate funds to improve commercial areas adjacent to the facilities (especially Pimlico).

Bill Arwady, Towson

Slots in Maryland are way overdue, which has cost the state millions and millions of dollars.


My wife and I go to Atlantic City, N.J., casinos about once a month. We also go to the Dover, Del., casino and most of the people I talk to there are from Maryland.

If our governor wants to raise money, I say: Bring the slots to Maryland and let the games begin.

Lou Eubank, Cub Hill

Because of the sport's cruelty to horses, animal lovers hope Maryland's tracks will not only shun slot machines but quit this ugly business altogether.

B. J. Small, Baltimore

If Maryland is to avoid ever-increasing subsidies for racing, I believe our race tracks must include slot machine gambling.


I grew up with slot machines in Anne Arundel County. During my high school years, I remember the clang of slots in almost every place I visited -- even a dinner in a nice restaurant was subject to bell-ringing, coin-dropping and the whooping of patrons who had won $2 in nickels.

Thus the idea of slots creeping out of the race tracks and into everyday businesses such as bars and restaurants brings back some bad memories. Even so, I favor slots at tracks.

Legislation can be crafted to control the proliferation of slots. And race tracks, local governments and the state can profit from the slots.

Ron Bass, Baltimore

If Maryland doesn't get slots we as a state will be big losers.

Too much money is leaving this state. All one has to do to see this is go to Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Charles Town race tracks' parking lots and check the license plates.


Our tracks are old and much in need of improvements.

I would vote for slots.

Alvin Oberender, Parkville

Just as the Maryland Stadium Authority used gaming -- through lottery ticket sales -- to support its needs, we should permit the state's race tracks and racing industry to benefit from legalized slots, so they can invest in upgrading their facilities and operations.

A percentage of the winnings extracted by the Delaware and West Virginia track operators is going to support race track operations. The metamorphosis in those facilities is testimony to that fact.

What worries me most, however, is whether Maryland politics has the integrity to deal with slots.


Maryland doesn't have a stellar track record in this regard -- and if a slots initiative moves forward, all citizens should pay very close attention and keep score.

Fred Metschulat, Baltimore

Without gambling, a great tradition will be lost

As a fan of thoroughbred racing for nearly 20 years, I have had the privilege of attending races at Laurel Park, Pimlico and the Timonium track in Maryland, as well as at tracks around the country.

During that time, there has been, except for special events such as the Preakness, a steady decline in attendance at Maryland tracks and a continuing rise in costs to fans for programs, parking and concessions.

Several times a year, I head up Interstate 95 to attend the races at Delaware Park. The difference in the atmosphere there and at the Maryland tracks is remarkable.


The first thing one notices is that there is no charge for admission in Delaware. Concession prices are also lower than at the Maryland tracks in every category. And, because of the higher purse structure in Delaware -- which is a direct result of slots -- more horses are entered in Delaware than in comparable races in Maryland, leading to more betting activity and a chance for better payouts.

Delaware has proven slots are profitable and, if set up properly, can work with little or no interference to the serious race fan.

Delaware took a previously unoccupied section of the racetrack and converted it to a very attractive area with food, beverages a lounge, closed-circuit monitors for racing from around the country and much more.

To say that our governor and state legislature are missing the boat on this opportunity would be a gross understatement.

It's time for Maryland to move into this century with a clear understanding of the competition we face from Delaware and West Virginia -- before it is too late.

John D. Milkowski, Baltimore


I grew up around the race track, many years ago when there were eight or more tracks in Maryland and no racing in the winter. I still love racing and horses and get to the track as often as possible.

I hate slot machines; they distract from the sport. But if we want to keep racing alive in Maryland, we have to offer slot machines and gambling at least at some of the Maryland tracks.

One look at the size of the fields and purses at Laurel and you can see it is necessary there.

I don't know about slots at Pimlico, however. I think that would cheapen the Preakness, as none of the other tracks in the Triple Crown offer slot machines.

But Pimlico could still benefit from revenues from the slot machines. The money could help refurbish the track,

I think slots are the only thing that will save Maryland racing.


I hope we don't wait too long -- and we act before the long tradition of racing in Maryland is gone forever.

Carole Hull, Catonsville

Maryland has a long, proud history of horse racing.

Our race tracks are known all over the world and our state's horse farms have bred some of the finest animals, many of whom achieved recognition as the best the sport of kings can offer. Racing has provided many jobs and contributed to the state's economy.

But lesser-known racetracks in neighboring states, with the advantage of increased income from slots that enable them to offer larger purses and bring in larger crowds, have in recent years surpassed Maryland's tracks.

A large part of this income is generated by Marylanders who travel to these out of state tracks to play the slots.


Maryland could use this money, and our tracks need a level paying field to compete.

Maryland must allow slots at tracks if our racing industry is to survive.

Thomas J. Rostkowski, Baltimore

Maryland is justifiably proud of its great heritage and traditions. We are fortunate to count among these the Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

This event showcases not only the sport of horse racing but our entire state. For 90 minutes in May, the world looks on and marvels at what we take for granted.

But we are about to lose this important tradition. Others are taking it away by the carloads.


Each day, carloads of Marylanders trek across the Bay Bridge or up Interstate 95, taking Maryland dollars to Dover Downs or Delaware Park.

Each year, 30 percent to 40 percent of Delaware's $6 billion horse track business comes from Maryland. It's not only money that is leaving; jobs and careers go with it.

Thousands of Marylanders, acres of Maryland land and thousands of Maryland jobs are going as well. We can do something about it and we must.

Maryland has a successful lottery program that is fair, regulated and well-supported. We benefit greatly from the lottery. We also have horse racing. But Maryland racing is losing out, declining in participation and support.

We can keep Maryland racing a shining example of cooperation between government and private enterprise. But we need a level playing field.

Fairly run, well-regulated and professionally managed, machine gambling can and will enhance Maryland's heritage.


D. Craig Horn, Laurel

As a thoroughbred breeder and owner, I am proud of my horses and get a thrill out of seeing them parade from the paddock and give it their all in a race.

I wish more people were there to feel the beauty of the horses and experience cheering for a horse and, better yet, cashing their tickets when they pick a winner.

Contrast this excitement with pulling a lever or pushing a button to get back 80 percent (or whatever the return rate is) of your money. But if people want to play slots and this is what it takes to sustain the Maryland tradition of racing, I will go along with it.

In Delaware, the purses are better, but where are the people watching the races?

What we really need is a promotion program that entices people to go to the track and enjoy racing.


Why not give, for example, 10 free admissions to all the people who go to the Preakness? Wouldn't this be incentive to come back another day?

If we continue on the present course, where the purse level does not pay the expenses of the average horse, owners will drop out and trainers will go where the money is.

Alice Dibben, Pasadena

Slots are no worse than other gambling

It is hard to turn on the radio or television these days without being barraged by commercials inviting people to participate in the Maryland lottery or any of its innumerable scratch-off games.

Thus the question of slot machines is not a moral one -- should gambling be allowed -- because the state has made gambling a legal and, by inference, moral activity.


If it is not illegal or immoral, why not have slots at Maryland tracks?

Why should Marylanders who wish to play slots have to drive to West Virginia, Delaware or Atlantic City, N.J.? Why should Marylanders enrich the treasuries of those areas and penalize our historic race tracks?

Slots can be a win-win situation. Surveys have shown casino gambling is one of their most popular social activities for senior citizens.

Let the tracks offer slots -- and thus satisfy the desires of many citizens, help the tracks survive and enrich the state treasury.

To this senior who has gone to West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey to enjoy a few hours of slots, this is a no-brainer.

Jerry Weiner, Baltimore


Let me note the hypocrisy of politicians who scream about slots but allow games that prey mainly on the poor, such as the lottery.

In the last few years, purses have exploded at the Delaware and Charles Town, W.Va., racetracks.

Most of the people who fre- quent these tracks are from Maryland.

Why should we be shipping our money out of state?

Leonard O. Taylor, Baltimore

Maryland's tracks definitely need slots to compete, and slots are no more harmful than state lottery games.


I recently observed an elderly gentleman in a convenience store purchasing lottery tickets. In about 10 minutes, he spent $120 on the daily numbers game.

Whether you play the lottery or the slots, gambling is gambling.

Indeed, slot machines may prove to be less harmful than the lottery. People wouldn't have the easy access to the slots that they do to the lottery games. And the lottery doesn't pay off very well.

I remember my childhood, when slot machines were legal in Southern Maryland. My family would go to a local beach and slot machines were in the arcades. Adults seemed to really enjoy them.

It was a thrill watching them put a few coins in and have a pile of coins fly out. And it wasn't something people did every day of the week, like the lottery.

Joan Mainhart, Linthicum


I see no logical argument for the state to continue to oppose slot machines at Maryland tracks.

Some forms of gambling have long been legal in Maryland and the state itself is a major player in the gambling business.

A visit to race tracks in nearby Delaware or West Virginia offers a stark contrast to a visit to the Laurel or Pimlico tracks. The former are awash in rising attendance, while our tracks limp along with lackluster crowds.

Without the Preakness and the Maryland Million to keep the fires burning, we would be looking at another of Maryland's traditions withering beyond resuscitation.

Allowing slot machines at Maryland tracks would put such activity under the same roofs where wagering has been going on for decades. That makes sense.

Continuing to prevent Maryland's tracks from competing on a level field with those in surrounding states does not make sense.


Dennis Steele, Baltimore


February's question asked readers whether Maryland tracks need to add slot machines to compete with tracks in Delaware and West Virginia that have used slots to boost revenue and racing purses.