Welcome To Ocean City. Slots Are Not Welcome.
Attendees at this year's convention of the Maryland Association of Counties -- a see and be seen event of state politics -- are being welcomed to Ocean City by dozens of motel and hotel signs proclaiming opposition to slot-machine gambling.
"Welcome MACO. No Slots in Maryland Period," reads one typical sign, at the Seabonay Motel, on this beach town's main drag.
The campaign, sponsored by a group of hotel and other business owners, comes as Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Maryland lawmakers consider legalizing slot machines as a partial solution to the state's looming budget shortfall of nearly $1.5 billion.
O'Malley and many other officials are attending the MACO convention, which started yesterday and runs through Saturday, when the governor is scheduled to address the group of county leaders.
In an interview on a Salisbury radio station this morning, O'Malley reiterated his support for a limited slots program, but also said it is an issue "I'm as bored with as many other people."
O'Malley downplayed the role slots might play in a long-term budget solution, saying on WICO 1320 AM that "I think we've overestimated how much slots can yield for the budget challenge."
In recent weeks, O'Malley has said several times that he would prefer to see slots proceeds steered toward capital projects rather than the operating budget. But he is always quick to add that he is willing to compromise.
Ocean City hotel owners are particularly concerned about the prospect of slots coming to Ocean Downs, a race track in the area. Asked yesterday if that would be a good venue for slots, O'Malley said "that's a possibility."
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