House bill would allow 3,000 slot machines at BWI

The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore County lawmaker is proposing slot-machine gambling at Maryland's major airport, but Gov. Martin O'Malley called the casino a "bad idea," limiting its chances at a time of slots-related buyer's remorse in Annapolis.

Del. Eric M. Bromwell's House Bill 777 - the airplane-related number is a coincidence - would add Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to the list of locations for the casino licenses approved by voters last year.

The bill, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 11 Baltimore County and city lawmakers, would allow 3,000 slots in the terminal area.

The idea is to separate air travelers from their cash while they wait to board airplanes, said Bromwell, a Baltimore County Democrat. "If you're looking to capture revenues from outside of the state," he said, "we're talking about people from all over the country and all over the world that land in BWI."

Because the gambling facilities would be behind security checkpoints, the one-armed bandits would attract travelers with time and money to burn, and not local gamblers, Bromwell said. The idea would require a voter-ratified amendment to the Maryland Constitution, which the lawmaker has also proposed.

Alexandra Hughes, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael E. Busch, said Busch has not seen Bromwell's bill but is inclined to let the slots-selection process play out before contemplating additional gambling sites.

State voters decided last year to legalize slots as a revenue source for public schools, but high taxes and a weak economy have yielded lackluster results so far. Gambling operators have proposed installing just over a third of the 15,000 slot machines authorized.

Baltimore Sun reporter Laura Smitherman contributed to this article.

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