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Slots Opponents Question Ballot Language

An anti-slots group says that the wording of a November referendum to authorize 15,000 slot machines in Maryland is too favorable to pro-gambling interests.

The language, released today by Secretary of State John P. McDonough, an appointee of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), lists several education programs that stand to benefit from slots proceeds. Scott Arceneaux, a senior adviser to Marylanders United To Stop Slots, noted that the ballot question does not mention the portion of proceeds that will be kept by slots operators or earmarked for the horse-racing industry.

"We think it's as favorable to the pro-slots side as possible," Arceneaux said, adding that the group is studying its options, including legal action.

In a statement, McDonough, who as a lawyer formerly represented Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's, said he crafted a fair question. He noted that the ballot language makes clear that the "video lottery terminals" at issue are "slot machines."

"While I am sure advocates on one side or the other (or both) will probably have criticisms, I am satisfied I carried out my statutory duty to fairly summarize the intent and meaning ..... without arguing for or against it," McDonough said.

Fred Puddester, chairman of For Maryland For Our Future, a pro-slots group, said in a statement that legislation authorizing the referendum last year made clear that the primary purpose of slots is to help education. "That purpose of funding education should not be lost in the coming weeks as we continue our discussion on this important issue," he said.

Here is the ballot language:

Authorizing video lottery terminals (slot machines) to fund education

Authorizes the state to issue up to five video lottery licenses for the purpose of raising revenue for education of children in public schools, prekindergarten through grade 12, public school construction and improvements, and construction of capital projects at community colleges and higher education institutions. No more than a total number of 15,000 video lottery terminals may be authorized in the State, and only one license may be issued for each specified location in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Worcester, and Allegany Counties and Baltimore City. Any additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming in Maryland is prohibited, unless approved by a voter referendum.

By Anne Bartlett  |  August 18, 2008; 5:22 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner , Slots  
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The anti-slots nutjobs are really grasping at straws here.

Posted by: Liz | August 18, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Anti-Slots forces should challenge this language in court. Any judge would agree that this language (written by supporters and lobbyists for slots -- with the approval of the pro-slot Governor) is 100% stilted in favor of passage.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 18, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Arceneaux.
Failure to specify in the ballot language how the proceeds will be divided is reason enough to vote NO.
The language tells the truth, but not the WHOLE TRUTH. It’s like a bait and switch scheme. Offer the voters something they want, a funding solution, but fail to disclose the true costs. It’s like a credit card with an insanely high limit, but how forgetful to mention that the interest rate is 50%

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | August 18, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Before anyone on this board decides whether the language is biased to one side or the other, or all of the legal experts here start guessing as to what "any judge would agree" to, understand that there is no requirement that the wording of the referendum be neutral or unbiased; only that it fairly and accurately represents the language of the bill passed the legislature.

That is the only criteria that a judge would use to determine the validity of the referendum's wording.

Posted by: Read the bill | August 19, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

So, this ballot question says vote yes if you want to educate the children vote no if you want to keep children from getting an education. Nice wording from a lobbiest for the gambling/racing industry.

The boy gov waits 2 years to appoint a SoS and he chose one who has lobbied/represented the gambling/racing industry for 20 years. No conflict of interest there huh? What a joke the gov is.

Posted by: AnotherWatcher | August 19, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

"there is no requirement that the wording of the referendum be neutral or unbiased; only that it fairly and accurately represents the language of the bill passed the legislature."

It doesn't.

The bill says:

"The General Assembly finds that:
(1) PROBLEM gambling is a serious social problem;
(2) There is evidence that the availability of gambling increases the
risk of becoming a PROBLEM gambler; and"
(3) This State, with its extensive legalized gambling, has an obligation
to provide a program of treatment for PROBLEM gamblers."

Now where is there any reference to Problem Gambling in the ballot language??

You didn't read the bill. Don't accuse others of your own mistakes.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Why am I not surprised at the reaction my post received. Clearly there is no desire to have a discussion, only accusations one way or the other.

I, personally, could care less if the bill passes or fails. I was merely pointing out that the question of bias is irrelevant to a judge determining whether or not the wording of the referendum is legal.

But everyone seems to want to be a Monday-morning judge and point out there clearly any real judge would see things their way, because they are ___ for slots (insert appropriate position here).

Yes, Anon, there are maybe "wherefor" clauses in the bills language, and many other provisions and specifics, not all of which can be included in a referendum because then it would be the length of the bill itself.

The ultimate question that will come before a judge is does the language of the referendum accurately reflect the wording of the bill and the intent of the legislature.

But regardless of what a judge rules, I suspect that those on the losing side of that judgment will blame the judge for being biased, incompetent, or in O'Malley's/Franchot's pocket.

Posted by: Read the bill | August 19, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

This debate needs to be aired in the paper-and-print version of your newspaper. Please ask your editor to assign to you write the story!!!!

Posted by: Dear John Wagner, | August 19, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

The law is clear in Maryland. If the wording on the ballot does not accurately reflect the legislation a lawsuit may be filed. That suit would probably end up before the Court of Appeals, but time is of the essence.

Posted by: Robin Ficker Broker RobinRealty | August 19, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: adult contemporary charts | August 22, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: adult contemporary charts | August 22, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I haven't decided how I will vote on this, but I just today looked at the language of the proposed amendment to the Constitution. That proposed amendment is accurately and fairly described in the ballot language, BECAUSE:
None of the stuff about how the money is to be spent is in the Constitutional amendment! It is in a companion bill, that will not require direct voter approval if in the future the legislature & governor want to change it.
See for yourselves:
Constitutional amendment:
Companion bill:

If you want to see the ballot language or the explanations, go to the MD Board of Elections website:

I agree that this should be discussed more publicly.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

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