03/14/2005 12:00AM

Maryland slots at impasse

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A Maryland Senate committee rejected the House of Delegates' plan for slot machines on Friday and substituted its own, more expansive proposal. Opponents of slot machines in the state said the plan makes legalized slot machines much less likely to win legislative approval this year.

The Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee took the House's slots proposal and amended it into a carbon copy of the bill the Senate passed last month. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he expects the Senate to pass the amended version early this week.

"If they want to kill the bill, they can kill the bill," Miller said, referring to the House. "But if they want a bill that'll work, we'll certainly talk to them."

The Senate bill would allow for 15,500 slot machines at seven locations, including four racetracks. The House version allows for 9,500 slots, with only one racetrack location, Laurel Park.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who has said that any changes to the House bill would cause support in his chamber to evaporate, said the Senate's action effectively ends the chances for slots this year.

"The Senate of Maryland has been the biggest promoter of slots," Busch said. "They had the chance to embrace a bill that would be supported by the administration and signed into law. They missed their opportunity."