Lawmaker seeks to ban slots near malls
With the fate of a proposed slots casino at Arundel Mills mall hanging in the balance, a state lawmaker said Tuesday that he will seek legislation prohibiting such facilities near shopping centers.
Del. Ron George (R-Anne Arundel) said he has prepared a bill that would ban slot machines within 1,000 feet of a shopping center, church, community center, playground or school -- with the exception of slots placed at existing horse tracks.
Two key votes affecting the proposed mall site could come Monday: one by a state location commission, the other by the Anne Arundel County Council. After months of delay, the council will consider zoning legislation needed for the slots casino to be proceed.
George said that fellow legislators and citizens have "expressed shock" that 2007 legislation would allow "a gambling facility in a busy shopping mall." Lawmakers reconvene in mid-January for their annual 90-day session.
"I am releasing this information now so the Anne Arundel County Council will know the state legilslature may like a chance to clarify their intent with the original bill," George said. "My constituents overwhelmingly prefer [slots] at a racetrack rather than a shopping center, mall or in the middle of a community that is not currently near a gambling location."
The Arundel Mills proposal is the only bid for an Anne Arundel slots license pending before the state commission. A bid to put slots at Laurel Park racetrack was disqualified in February because the track owners did not provide a required multi-million licensing fee.
In a statement Tuesday, George said he had requested an opinion from the Attorney General confirming that his restrictions could be enacted through legislation. Several key provisions of Maryland's slots program are now part of the state Constitution.
In response to a request from The Washington Post, the Attorney General's Office released an email sent last month by Debbie Yatsuk, a legislative assistant to George.
"Del. George is interested in prohibiting slots at locations where families go for other reasons," Yatsuk wrote to Bonnie Kirkland, an assistant attorney general. "Is it possible to create a bill for such, or would it need a constitutional amendment, or is it not feasible at all in your opinion?"
"It is my view that the General Assembly may enact laws to further restrict the location of [slots] facilities," Kirkland wrote back. "It is also my view, however, that 'locations where families go for other reasons' is way too broad to survive a legal challenge. The bill would need to specify the location where the facilities would be prohibited -- for example, within a certain distance (specify) of a church, school, playground or shopping mall."
December 1, 2009; 3:08 PM ET
Categories: John Wagner , Slots
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