02/27/2004 1:00AM

Slots pass Maryland Senate


A bill to authorize 15,500 slot machines at up to six locations in Maryland passed the state's Senate on Friday and was headed to an uncertain future in the House of Delegates.

The heavily amended version of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s slot-machine bill was approved by a 27-18 vote after about an hour of debate.

The six locations could potentially include three sites at four eligible racetracks: Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, Rosecroft Raceway, and a yet-to-be-built track in western Maryland.

Last year's bill died in the House Ways and Means Committee, where it will be sent again this year when it reaches the House next week.

House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat who played a key role in defeating Ehrlich's bill a year ago, would not predict what will happen to it this year.

"We'll wait until it comes over and judge it like any other revenue source," Busch said. "It will have a hearing. It will go through the same process every other bill will go through."

The governor's office and legislative fiscal advisers estimate the state's share of slot machine revenues would be almost $830 million when all 15,500 slot machines are in operation.