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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.

A sign of the anti-slots campaign. (By John Wagner - The Washington Post)

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."

By John Wagner  |  August 16, 2007; 9:06 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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Martin has spent a week in Ocean City with a lot of money grubbing local lobbyists, all of whom want to raise taxes and don't want one hair of their programs shaved. If he has talked to a single lobbyist who would accept a haircut, I dare you to name that person. Martin should go down along the beach and walk in the surf with people who are watching their 401K's tank and who are shocked by the volatility of our subprime economy. Or tell the merchants about his desire to increase the Maryland sales tax while Delaware has no sales tax at all. We sure can't afford to increase our education budget by l3%. A 5% increase is not a "cut" as Post editors say. It is a big fat lie to say so. Officials who try and raise our taxes are slapping every Marylander in the face. Things are tough out there now for the average man and woman on the street. Why should we pay the salaries of people who want to make things worse for someone struggling on a family budget? Look at the stock market. Many have lost as much as 1/3 and you are talking about raising taxes! You want WAR and you are going to get it from behind every bush and tree in the old line state. We need a tax cut, not an increase.

Posted by: Robin Ficker of Robin Realty | August 16, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse

OK, so the hotels of Ocean City don't want casinos. Cool, I'll wave to all of them on my next trek up to Atlantic City. We all see how little money that's brought New Jersey.

Posted by: Money Hungry? | August 16, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Truth is...OC is doing great and its already almost impossible to book a stay there except for way in advance. Good point about Atlantic City, though. The problem is that OC has NO DESIRE to become another AC. Gambling is all AC has left. It pushed out everything else. Great for gambling...terrible as a family beach resort. OC is determined to remain a family beach resort. We need another solution.

Posted by: Donny | August 16, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Who cares what Ocean City has to say about anything? It is an old and tired vacation destination that has seen its day. OC is like Myrtle Beach, rednecks, beer and seasonal residents.

Let all the money go to Atlantic City and West Virginia. People are going to gamble and they will travel to do it. Just look at how many people still make the trip to Las Vegas.

Don't listen to the people of OC. They are a minor city.

Posted by: Slots? | August 16, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

No one wants to put slots at the hotels in OC. That has never even been brought up. OC is and will always be a family resort town. There are too many condos and homes for that to change. AC was a dump before legalized gambling, and most of the city still is. OC is a vibrant community without them, and even I do not want to see them there.

Posted by: Pro slots | August 16, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

As many other posters have suggested, I don't think slots would be a good fit in OC. The city does just fine without it and I'd rather not see it degenerate to AC levels.

Robin Ficker of Robin Crazy...I mean Realty:
Your baseless claims continue to amaze me. Anybody who's playing the stocks with money they can't afford to lose is an idiot. 401k's are safe because the US economy has always grown over the long term. The economy will stabilize in the next year or so and everyone's 401k will be safe again.

I'll ask again, although I've ceased to expect a well reasoned response, what programs would you cut to pay for your tax decrease?

Posted by: JasonL | August 16, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

So we all seem to think that slots are not a good fit for Ocean City. The problem is that because of massive lobbying and campaign spending, any "limited slots" package will spread into every part of the state during the next downturn. Just as the lottery expands every time the legislature needs a few dollars, slots will expand. But lack of state ownership will make that process far faster and more thorough.

If you oppose slots in OC, or in YOUR neighborhood, you have to oppose slots everywhere.

Posted by: Aaron Meisner | August 16, 2007 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Slots do not belong anywhere in Maryland. OC will only be ruined by the introduction of slots. Let those polyester wearing, bus riding, nickel slot playing low rollers stay up in Atlantic City. The only thing gambling has brought to Maryland has been several overpriced sports stadiums. Remember when all those lottery proceeds were going to save the schools in Baltimore? How's that working out? Those monies were diverted to the Maryland Stadium Authority and many other cash sucking entities in the State budget that had nothing to do with education. The same will happen with slots. A few millionaires, politicians and mobsters will get richer, we will have more crime and corruption and will still be taxed to pay for the usual government services. We are not falling for it again, O'Malley!

Posted by: C-dog | August 17, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

A few millionaire will get richer? Possibly. But the real people who will benefit are those of us who work for the tracks. It will help keep my middle class job and many others like it. We have families to support just like most other people of this state. But because people are afraid a couple of high income people may make some more money, those of us who depend on our jobs to support our families don't matter.

Posted by: To C-Dog | August 17, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

"what programs would you cut to pay for your tax decrease?"

how about the Maryland Stadium Athority...

how about the dozens of public/private businesses that are being started up with private business owners raking in profits, but started up with tax-payer money as start-up funds...

how about bringing in a sound business base into the state WITHOUT giving them tons of tax cuts so that businesses and large corporations can support the services of the state instead of on the backs of the working class...

Our state wastes so much money, it truly is sickening. I am tired of hearing of people saying that the only way to maintain services is to raise taxes... maybe we need to cut back and go back to basics -- maybe this is too Socialist for some, but how about those that are more fortunate help those that are less fortunate...

Posted by: G-Man | August 17, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

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

Never trust Martin O'Malley--a political fraud. He has betrayed everybody--blacks, labor and those who supported him. Martin O'Malley can cross any limit and take money from gambling industry and even legalize prostitution!

Peter Frenchot is the only hope for Maryland Democrats who can kick O'Malley hard in his ass.

Posted by: Kick the Ass | August 18, 2007 10:40 PM | Report abuse

My issue with slots are that the proposed locations are all in majority black areas. If it ain't good for OC then it ain't good for anywhere for the same reasons. They don't want to spoil the family environment of OC, what about the family environment of those proposed neighborhoods.

I'm opposed to slots, but if they have to come make sure all the monies go to schools...but we've heard that before with the lottery! Our schools are a joke!

Posted by: David | August 20, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I cringe each time I hear "no slots in Maryland" while a fortunate few in Calvert County have been benefiting from LEGAL slots for years now. In the last 24 months or so, it has grown to a sickening pace.

Restaurants that were once decent places to eat have suddenly becoming choked with chain smoking slots players. It's more profitable to do away with dining tables and put up a few slot machines. Most notably, the Mayor of Cheasapeake Beach, Gerald Donovan (also the owner of the Rod 'n Reel Restaurant and over half of the other businesses in the town) has recently completed his new hotel and de facto casino remeniscent of some sleezy Nevada border town. Just follow the signs that read "Bingo Upstairs" ("Bingo" is codename for slots in these parts BTW) to see the dozens of middle aged to eldery folks blowing their SS checks while spinning tales about someone who hit for $2,500 a week ago. It truly makes me sick.

Mayor Donovan has built his establishments so that no one can enjoy the view of the Bay without first walking through his casino.

Posted by: Bingo | August 20, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

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