Thursday, November 15 – Ocean Downs Out Of Slots Picture?

BERLIN – As the battle on slots continues in Annapolis this morning, a move late yesterday could take Ocean Downs and Worcester County out of the equation and replace it with a different venue in Western Maryland.

A House subcommittee late yesterday approved an amended version of Governor Martin O’Malley’s slots bill, which calls for 15,000 gaming machines at five locations across Maryland including Ocean Downs in Worcester County not far from Ocean City. However, the amended version approved by the House subcommittee late yesterday removed Ocean Downs from the equation and replaced it with a proposed site in Frederick in Western Maryland.

Howard County Delegate Frank Turner, who chairs the House gaming subcommittee, said a location in Frederick could generate more revenue than Ocean Downs because of its proximity to the popular Charles Town slots venue in West Virginia and its proximity to a larger segment of Maryland’s population. Turner said Ocean Downs might be a less attractive site because of a limited support base other than the four or five months at the height of the tourist season in the resort area.

While the news the House gaming subcommittee voted to remove Ocean Downs from its slots bill and replace it with a venue in Frederick will certainly be hailed as a victory among those in the area opposed to slots at the Berlin racetrack, the battle is far from over. The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to take up the debate this morning and it could be forwarded to the full House of Delegates later this afternoon.

Even if the amended version gets through Ways and Means unscathed and is approved by the full House, the bill would still be have to be reconciled with the slots bill passed by the full Senate last week, which includes Ocean Downs. The situation appears to change by the minute as the General Assembly special session nears the finish line.

See tomorrow’s print edition of The Dispatch for the most up-to-date information.