Residents Give Up Hope Of Pines Getting Slots Money

OCEAN PINES – A group of Ocean Pines residents who attempted to pursue potential slots revenue for the community, despite the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors decision to back off, have concluded that there is little chance of getting the slots law changed to funnel part of the revenues to Ocean Pines.

Roseann Bridgman, Norm Katz, Dan Stachurski, Sharyn O’Hare and Joe Reynolds met with Delegate Jim Mathias last weekend to explore alternatives now that the OPA Board has stepped back from its December decision to seek potential slot machine revenue.

Bridgman said that she wanted to see an amendment to the slots legislation to officially designate Ocean Pines as a recipient of some percentage of county slots revenue.

“At this point, we have decided not to pursue it. It just wouldn’t be feasible,” said Bridgman.

Of the meeting with Mathias, Katz said, “He said a number of times we missed the boat and it’s very difficult to get back on board at this point.”

Ocean Pines may not be completely shut out of an official share of the funds, however.

“He opened the door a crack,” Katz said.

Mathias told them last weekend that Ocean Pines should document the impacts from any addition of slot machine gambling at the racetrack to have a good chance at slots money.

“We had a very good conversation,” Mathias said.

The delegate said he has already explored the impacts to Ocean Pines if slot machines are added to Ocean Downs, calling Ocean Pines Police Chief Dave Massey and Ocean Pines General Manager Dave Olsen before the slot machine bill vote. The OPA had an opportunity to comment before the special session vote on the slot machine gambling bill in December, but did not, Mathias said.

Ocean Pines needs to establish the impacts to the community from slots at the racetrack and negotiate with the county for funds, according to the delegate.

“They appear to have at least a workable relationship,” said Mathias.

Worcester County, under the slot machine gambling law, is entitled to revenue from slots in the county as are Ocean City and Berlin. The money is meant to take care of infrastructure impacts.

“The bill clearly recognizes the roadway improvements to 589 between Routes 50 and 113 as being very important if slots come to Ocean Downs,” Mathias said.

Ocean Pines can also attempt to get representation on the local managing council that will be established if the slots referendum passes and slot machines come to the racetrack.

“My preference was to get an amount designated for Ocean Pines. I would feel more comfortable with that than just hoping they’re going to give us something,” Katz said.     

As for an impact statement, Katz said it would be difficult to quantify the true impact of the increase in traffic to Ocean Downs.

“It’s very, very difficult to do because many of those things you can’t put dollars on because it’s intangible. It’s air pollution and litter and noise pollution and traffic. All of this is going to be affecting our way of life and our health,” Katz said. “The municipalities, they didn’t have to do that. We’re in the backyard of Ocean Downs and they’re not. We’re going to be getting the brunt of it.”

County Commissioner Linda Busick said Ocean Pines would get its share.

 “We’d divvy it out and make sure Ocean Pines gets their fair share,” Busick said. “We’re concerned about the impact to this district in particular. There’s more impact on Ocean Pines than on Ocean City or Berlin.”

The OPA Board reversed its early decision to pursue slots revenue in January, issuing a position statement that said the OPA would work with county elected officials instead of pursuing it on their own.

“The need for Ocean Pines to maintain a compatible, cordial and professional relationship with our Worcester County Commissioners far outweighs any theoretical enhancement of Ocean Pines’ coffers due to an as-yet-undetermined, slots-related process,” the statement reads.

“We felt like there’s little chance of getting the law changed,” said Board member Bill Rakow, one of the authors of the position statement.

“We’re not politicians. We’re elected directors of a 501c corporation. That does not give us the right to go out and campaign for legislation,” said Board member Marty Clarke. “I think we need to have a relationship with the county.”

Katz is bothered the board will not take a stand.

 “The board has said they don’t want to be involved in politics. I disagree with that,” Katz said.

Katz is also bothered that the board made what seems to be a unilateral decision to not go after slot machine money.

“There was nothing ever on the agenda to discuss it,” Katz said. “They went one way publicly and they went another way secretly.”

If Ocean Pines is not designated for funds in the law, then Berlin and Ocean City should not be either, he feels.

“Give it all to the county and let the county decide how they’re going to divvy it out,” Katz said.

Bridgman holds out hope the county will treat the community fairly if slots are passed and come to Ocean Downs.

“I think Ocean Pines should get their share,” said Bridgman.