demand share of slots
leaders say they will fight the legalization of slot machines
in Maryland unless African-Americans get at least one of the state's
Del. Obie Patterson, who is chairman of the legislative black
caucus, said that there was "a consensus reached" at
a meeting last week on slots. Patterson declined to give details,
but said the caucus's position will be spelled out at a news conference
"We will be taking a very strong, very forceful position,"
Del. Clarence Davis, an East Baltimore Democrat, said a gambling
license for African-Americans is the price for black support of
any slots legislation.
"There is a firm conviction that if there is not majority
ownership by a black entrepreneur in at least one of the facilities,
the black caucus may be predisposed not to have any slots,"
Davis noted that proposals have centered on putting Wal-Mart-sized
slots emporiums in communities with majority black populations
- Baltimore City and Prince George's County.
"For slots proponents to think that black people can vote
for gambling facilities and ... not participate at the highest
levels is ludicrous," Davis said.
Last year, black lawmakers sought minority participation in any
slots operation but did not insist on black ownership of any of
the facilities as a prerequisite of their support for slots.
The new demand appears to pose another complication for Maryland
Governor Ehrlich's administration as it tries to forge slots legislation
that will satisfy an array of interest groups.
A bill last year called for 11,500 slot machines at four horse
racing tracks, none of which were owned by minorities. Most observers
say they expect Ehrlich's proposal this year to include a mix
of tracks and other sites.
Ehrlich said yesterday that his latest plan is being drafted,
but that "there's certainly been talks over the past year"
with minority business leaders who hope to participate.
Black ministers, who are among the staunchest opponents of legalizing
slots, say that steering a gambling license to an entity controlled
by African-Americans doesn't ease their concerns.
"It's irrelevant if they say that some of the casinos are
going to be owned by African-Americans," said the Rev. Gregory
B. Perkins, who heads the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
of Baltimore and Vicinity. "A predator is a predator is a
predator. ... African-Americans sell drugs in the city. How has
He said the introduction of slots will mean more personal bankruptcies,
crime, prostitution and other problems - regardless of the race
of the owners of slots emporiums or casinos.
Ehrlich will have to do a delicate balancing act to woo the black
lawmakers and also satisfy the demands of other groups, including
local jurisdictions that are pressing for more control over what
happens with slots.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said the city expects the state
to provide money for any costs that fall to the city for a slots
venture - including road improvements, police protection and similar
expenses. Impact fees also will need to be paid to the predominately
black Park Heights community, he said, if slots come to Pimlico
"I'm not a big fan of slots," O'Malley said, calling
the governor's proposal to close the budget gap with slots a "gambling