MARYLAND

Montgomery County veterans halls push for pull tab gaming

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Montgomery County delegates will be reviewing a bill to bring gaming into veterans halls.

When lawmakers voted to expand gambling in Maryland, they included a provision to allow veterans organizations west of the Chesapeake Bay to sell lottery machine tickets.

Montgomery County didn't make the list. Now there's a push to reverse that decision.

Members at American Legion Post 86 in Rockville have the option of playing bingo, but it wants to add another game of luck - pull tab machines.

Robert Garagiola, D-District 15, said, "There's paper involved, and they are games of chance. It's almost like a cross between lottery and a slot machine."

When Maryland lawmakers passed the gambling expansion measure in Aug. during a special session, they included a provision for pull tabs at certain veterans facilities like American Legion and VFW posts.

"We passed the legislation in the Senate initially, and it went over to the House of Delegates, came back and allowed every county except Montgomery County," Garagiola explained. "...I've never been able to figure out the responsible legislator for excluding Montgomery County."

Monday night, American Post 295 Post Commander Bob Ouellette told leaders, like Senator Garagiola, that the extra dollars from gaming will continue to help the American Legion provide funding for scholarships, outreach and post operations.

As the bill stands right now, there would be a limit of five machines at each hall, and only members and their guests would be allowed to participate in the gaming.

Ouellette said, "It's not going to create a casino in someone's backyard."

He added a similar measure has been in place on the Eastern Shore since the 80s. It has generated thousands for other non-profits.

"This past summer, they donated $85,000 to one of the Maryland organizations," Ouellette continued.

The measure has been presented to the General Assembly in the past as a stand alone bill, but it didn't go through until this past summer.

Opponents have argued that pull tab machines are designed to be very addictive.

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