01/15/2003 12:00AM

Maryland slots plan draws fire

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A key Maryland legislator introduced a proposal for slot machines at racetracks on Tuesday that a racing industry spokesman immediately criticized as inadequate.

The proposal, which has been circulated by Howard P. Rawlings, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, would allow a total of 10,000 slot machines at four racetracks, including the Maryland Jockey Club's Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park. Tracks would get a 30 percent cut of the revenues from slots, and horsemen and breeders would get 7 percent.

Thomas Bowman, the president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and a spokesman for the racing industry, said the proposal, if enacted, would "devastate the racing industry." He said the proposal would also require tracks to pay a $125 million license fee each to the state for the right to operate the machines.

"Everyone in Maryland I think would agree that this would break horse racing's back," Bowman said. "Financially, it can't work like that. Whoever did this did not take into account any of the math."

Rawlings proposal was issued counter to a plan advanced last week by the racing industry. That plan called for a total of 18,000 slots at five tracks, with 45 percent of the revenue earmarked for the racing industry.