The year will end with no clear vision on slots for Prince George’s County as a spirited hearing on Nov. 15 led to the tabling of a bill banning slots in the county and the passing of a referendum leaving the issue up to the voters.

There were impassioned speakers on both sides of the bill with Councilmembers Eric Olson, D.-Dist. 3, Mary Lehman, D.-Dist. 1, Will Campos, D.-Dist. 2, and Andrea Harrison D.-Dist. 5 saying slots are a bad idea for the county and not something the county should subject itself to.

Harrison, in particular, warned of the negative impacts that legalizing slots may bring.

“Quite honestly you all are going to do what you’re going to do,” Harrison said to her fellow councilmembers. “But I’m going to tell you this; you better be prepared to deal with the consequences as they come.

“I’m going to do what I have to do,” she continued. “I’m going to support the residents of Prince George’s County.”

Olson got riled up by comments made by Eric Shippers, senior vice president of Penn National Gaming, the parent company of Rosecroft Raceway, the likely location if slots are legalized in the county. Shippers commented that there was manufactured opposition to slots generated by those who want to protect the interest of casino owners in Anne Arundel County.

“I put this bill in in 2009 right after the passed,” Olson said. “The people who are opposed to slots are not manufactured. Those people live in Prince George’s County. Those people work in Prince George’s County. Those people love Prince George’s County. Mr. Shippers I find what you said offensive.”

Other council members wouldn’t commit to the legislation either way, but said that since no specific proposal has been placed on the table and there are ardent community supporters on both sides of the issue, no decision should be made now when the issue can be revisited when there is more information.

“I’m not sure with all of this information combined anybody can say for certain what the opinion of Prince George’s County residents is on this issue right now,” Councilman Mel Franklin, D.-Dist. 9 said. “There’s too much conflicting information and that’s just my honest view of it.”

Over 60 community organizations appeared at the hearing in support of banning slots in the county, while a large group of folks attended wearing yellow shirts saying “no” to the bill.

The Collective Empowerment Group represented by vice president Pastor Anthony Maclin of the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square, presented the council with an alternative plan for what the council could do with the land that would create jobs.

“I’m hoping and praying that the collective energy of the people that have spent eight hours here today be used in going back to create other alternatives that will say something positive about the future of this county and the intelligence of this council,” Maclin said.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO