A bill to extend the licenses of the Chesapeake Beach businesses that offer customers use of electronic or instant bingo machines was heard Friday, March 16 in Annapolis. The hearing for HB 927, which is sponsored by the Maryland General Assembly’s Calvert County Delegation, was considerably overshadowed by the debate over a planned gambling venue in Prince George’s County.
The House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony regarding several gaming bills, including the measure impacting instant bingo in Chesapeake Beach.
Delegate Mark Fisher [R-District 27-B], a member of the committee, said details of the legislation were vetted last year and reapportions the revenue distributions. The machines are scheduled to be outlawed per 2008 legislation but the businesses that held licenses that year have been allowed to continue their operations due to legislation extending the sunset of the devices, which mimic slots.
The bill would extend the sunset to June 30, 2016.
Wesley Donovan of Chesapeake Amusements Inc., which operates the machines at the Rod ‘N’ Reel Restaurant, said he and the other operators would like to see the sunset eliminated entirely. “We employ 300 people,” said Donovan, adding that the uncertainty of the devices’ legality puts his business’s revenue and manpower in limbo.
Rod ‘N’ Reel General Manager Mary Lanham told the committee the tradition of tourists playing bingo in Chesapeake Beach dates back to the 1930s and the electronic bingo devices were first installed in 1995. Lanham said the Rod ‘N’ Reel and the Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa attract visitors from all over the country and the revenues generated by the machines have enabled management to hire an excellent staff. “We are very proud of our professionalism,” said Lanham.
“This [bill] brings parity to everybody,” said Ryan Hill of the Crooked I in Chesapeake Beach. “We are supportive.”
No one voice opposition to HB 927.
Hill was also on hand to ask the committee to consider amending HB 1166, which eliminates the sunset on the instant bingo games used at his business. The Crooked I was inadvertently left out of the legislation. Hill said this would shut his business down and result in th