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O'Malley Scouts Slots

Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he is dispatching a Cabinet secretary on a fact-finding mission to racetracks in neighboring states that allow slot-machine gambling.

Thomas E. Perez, secretary of labor, licensing and regulation, said he plans to start with a visit next week to Philadelphia Park in Bensalem, Pa., which opened slot-machine operations in December and reaped $175 million in wagering in the first three weeks, according to racing industry publications.

"We want to look at our competition in other states, to see why it is they've been able to infuse their racing industries with new life," O'Malley (D) said.

The planned trips to Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia -- states that fuel their horse-racing purses with revenue from slot machines on site -- are the strongest public signal to date that O'Malley is seriously considering expanded gambling.

The fortunes of the state's racing industry have declined as racetracks compete with tracks in surrounding states that have slots. The machines also could offer a partial solution to the state's looming budget shortfall.

O'Malley has indicated support for a "limited" number of slot machines at racetracks, and he said yesterday that they could be part of a "comprehensive solution to our budget challenges." He said he is in talks with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), a leading slots proponent, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who opposes expanded gambling.

By Phyllis Jordan  |  June 14, 2007; 10:47 AM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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