Friday, August 17, 2012

Slot Machines in College Park, Easton & Frederick? // New Gambling Law Puts Neighborhood Slots at Veterans Halls

DOUBLE-UPDATE: Delegate Doyle Neimann of Prince George's County has provided Maryland Juice with a rebuttal of some of the points raised below by Fred Nordham and Delegate Eric Luedtke.

UPDATE: A few knowledgeable readers have sent in clarifications about the workings of the veterans hall slot machines. The added details may remove a few worries about the new law. First, the veterans halls with slot machines are not exactly open to the public. VFW and American Legion members and their guests can gamble at the facilities, but they do not appear to be open to non-members. It is unclear whether this is stipulated in Maryland's new gambling law, or whether this is simply a fact of how the veterans halls are organized. Additionally, the slot machines in the veterans halls will look like slot machines, but the technology for them is a bit different.

Below you can see the clarifications Maryland Juice received from Delegate Eric Luedtke (District 14 Democrat) and Fred Nordhorn from the Prince George's County Commission for Veterans:
DELEGATE ERIC LUEDTKE: Slot machines have been authorized in veterans halls in most eastern shore counties (including Talbot Co., which includes Easton) for about 20 years, so your mentioning Easton in the title of your post is probably not on target. Most people don't know that, largely because these foreign legion and VFW posts are members-only, therefore not open to the general public, therefore not 'neighborhood slots parlors'.
In addition,the amendment that passed is SUBSTANTIALLY different from what Del. Afzali proposed. Del. Afzali's proposal would have authorized slot machines (i.e. machines based on a random number generator) at veterans halls in only four western Maryland counties, and none of the money would have gone to the state. Instead, they would have followed the Eastern Shore model, where 50% of proceeds from the machines go to the veterans organization, and 50% go to charities selected by the veterans organization. The machines that were authorized by Del. Minnick's successful amendment authorized instant ticket lottery machines (i.e. machines that literally have a roll of tickets inside and are therefore not entirely random but look like a slot machine from the outside) at all western shore counties except Montgomery, with about 40% of the proceeds going to the state general fund.
In addition to Delegate Luedtke's response, Maryland Juice received the following comments from Fred Nordhorn of the Prince George's Commission for Veterans:
FRED NORDHORN: Please remember one thing: ONLY MEMBERS of the VFW or American Legion Post are going to be able to use them!!!! The only people that can use a VFW or AL Post area is its Members, Spouse of the member and invited guest. The invited guest must leave when the member the person is a guest of leaves. Also a member of a AL Post in Ohio visiting the area would be able to use the AL Post in College Park MD. There are some minor exceptions for Elected Officials on the Monthly Meeting night or Special Meeting.
Also someone like me who a Commissioner on the County Veterans Commission has no problems attending VFW and AL meetings but we are talking only a handful of special people. Also VFW and American Legion Post have halls that are rented out for parties or events that are SEPERATE from the main "Members Only" area where the slot machines will be.

VFW by their Federal Charter - you must have served in a War.
American Legions by their Federal Charter - You must have served during a time of War.

SLOT MACHINES IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? - If you live in Montgomery County, read no further, as you've been spared. But if you live in any other  part of the state, it appears that slot machines may be coming to your neighborhood. This week Maryland lawmakers approved a November ballot measure to expand gambling and bring table games to the Free State. But the bill passed with no votes to spare, and as it turns out, one of the deals that was cut allows slot machines at veterans halls -- which are located in and around numerous residential neighborhoods. That means the local VFW or American Legion Post in your neighborhood may become a mini-slot hall. But Montgomery County alone was spared from the deal and will be the only county where these neighborhood slot halls are prohibited.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY SPARED FROM NEIGHBORHOOD SLOTS - In contrast, there are 10 possible VFW Posts and 16 American Legion Posts in Prince George's County alone. Along with MGM's National Harbor casino, Prince George's County may see a sprinkling of neighborhood slot halls.  One possible location is located just miles from the Montgomery County border, roughly 2 miles from the University of Maryland's College Park campus:

Is a neighborhood slot hall coming to College Park, Maryland?

See a list of P.G. towns with American Legion Halls below, as an example of potential slot machines sites:
  • BELTSVILLE, MD 20705
  • LAUREL, MD 20707
  • BOWIE, MD 20720-3255
  • CHEVERLY, MD 20785-1257
  • COLMAR MANOR, MD 20722-1933
  • GREENBELT, MD 20770
  • LANHAM, MD 20706-3808
  • COLLEGE PARK, MD 20740-1316
  • BRANDYWINE, MD 20613
  • BELTSVILLE, MD 20705
  • TEMPLE HILLS, MD 20748
  • CLINTON, MD 20735-0044
  • GLENARDEN, MD 20706

The Baltimore Sun reported on this last-minute change to the gambling bill (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: The vote allows the machines in veterans' organizations in every county except Montgomery as part of an amendment to Gov. Martin O'Malley's bill that would also provide tax breaks for casino owners, allow table games in Maryland casinos and permit the state's sixth casino to be constructed in Prince George's County.
FIND POSSIBLE SLOT MACHINE SITES IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD: You can see a directory of Maryland VFW Posts online, as well as Maryland American Legion Posts 

DEL. KATHY AFZALI EXPLAIN ORIGINS OF NEIGHBORHOOD SLOT PLAN (AKA THE GOP CUT A DEAL): Even worse, according to Delegate Kathy Afzali's latest newsletter, the neighborhood slot parlors are now approved in Maryland -- whether or not November's gambling referendum passes or fails. The Republican lawmaker's newsletter discusses the details of the inside deal for neighborhood slot parlors (highlighting courtesy of Juice):

August 17, 2012

In case you've been on vacation or perhaps are so thrilled about Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate you've missed local news, let me bring you up to speed.

At midnight Tuesday, Maryland house speaker Michael Busch called "Sine Die" on a special legislative session that expanded gambling in Maryland. I'd like to explain from my perspective what happened during the session and why, ultimately, I voted "no" for the expanded gaming bill.

Before this session even began, I was asked numerous times to state my position and I didn't. Although I have never been a fan of gaming, I wanted to be open minded for the hearings and to reserve my decision after I knew the facts. 

The more I read and heard, the more I knew that SB/HB 1 was a flawed piece of legislation.

The Governor saw this site as a means to make money for Maryland and in order to get it on the ballot, the bill had to be completely ready to go by August 20th.  Just a side note: it will still be several years before the Prince George's casino is up and running and making a profit for the state.

The bill passed, 71-57, after countless hours in the Ways and Means Committee, the offering of over 50 amendments, long House floor debates, and much behind the scenes arm-twisting. 

There is one positive for me in all of this - I was able to pass an amendment to allot gaming machines to our Veterans' organizations, something they had been requesting for years.  I arrived in Annapolis last Friday, ready to do everything that I could to make this happen for our veterans.  These charitable organizations had been told that they would be next in line after the first five sites were up and had been waiting in good faith. Enter MGM, and the Veterans were bumped-- again.

My first amendment, which allowed for a small amount of gaming machines in Veterans Clubs was offered to the Ways and Means Committee and quickly shot down by the Democrats, with the exception of Delegate Jolene Ivey.  I withdrew that amendment and began work on another that was much like Senator Glassman's Veterans amendment previously rejected on the Senate floor. 

Here's where it gets good!

During the day on Tuesday the Democrat leadership still didn't have the votes to pass SB/HB 1. In desperation, realizing the Governer's gaming bill would fail, leadership called an emergency meeting of the Veterans Caucus and was able to get more votes in exchange for Veterans gaming machines. Suddenly my amendment was in play.

Delegate Joseph "Sonny" Minnick, chair of the Veterans' Caucus, and a veteran himself, was prepared to offer an amendment identical to mine and the gaming bill would pass. Members of the Republican caucus insisted that I offer the amendment (which was a done deal at this point) but I asked Delegate Minnick to offer it.

What happened after that was very interesting. My fellow Republicans (especially my colleague Delegate Joe Boteler) were insensed that my amendment had been voted down the day before, but now was being used as a bribe by Democrats. A vigorous floor debate insued. I stood up and asked my collegues to support the amendment even though we hated the means for which it was being used. The amendment passed and I am so pleased about that

The vets will get their machines and can keep 5.5% of the gross. On top of that, if the gaming bill dies at the ballot box, the veterans still get their machines! For that I am tickled pink. I said I'd get things done in Annapolis and Tuesday I did.

Thank you for your patience Veterans!

I hope this helps you understand a little bit better what happened in Annapolis during this Special Session.  If you have any other questions or concerns, as always, please feel free to contact me by phone or email.

Your Delegate,


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