An overflow crowd attended the first of three town hall meetings hosted by freshman state Delegate Mark Fisher [R-District 27B]. The session was held Tuesday, Nov. 29 at the North Beach Town Hall.
Most of the attendees turned out to lobby Fisher to support extending the legality of pull-tab bingo machines, a controversial economic mainstay at four Chesapeake Beach businesses.
The attendees, mostly employees at the venues—the Rod ‘N’ Reel, Abner’s Crab House, Trader’s and the Crooked I—donned bold red on bright yellow T-shirts that read “Save Our Jobs.”
“I promised transparency,” said Fisher, who revealed several weeks ago he intended to take on the issue of either eliminating a state plan to phase out the pull-tab machines or at least extending the hold on their prohibition.
According to data released by the Maryland Legislative Services Department, in fiscal year (FY) 2011 the machines grossed $139.2 million and netted $28.59 million. The Town of Chesapeake Beach realized $696,151 in local amusement and admissions tax revenue from the machines while the state’s yield was nearly $8.6 million. Calvert County receives no tax revenue from the machines and only collects a modest yield of licensing fees.
While Fisher presented other fiduciary issues the Maryland General Assembly will discuss and possibly act upon in 2012, most of the crowd wanted the lawmaker’s assurance he would support lifting the pending ban on the pseudo-slots. An audience member told Fisher about 200 employees of the establishments that have the machines in Chesapeake Beach and some venues in Southern Anne Arundel County would lose their jobs. The prohibition would additionally harm the area’s hospitality industry, the audience member contended.
For most of the meeting Fisher dodged attempts by audience members to get him to explicitly promise he would be a proponent of keeping the pull-tab machines operating. One of Fisher’s predecessors, George W. Owings III, asked, “what can they [meeting attendees] do to help you kill the sunset, repeal the sunset, make it go away.”
Fisher admitted he had concerns about “the gambling part,” but added, “I don’t want to see people lose their jobs. My goal is to save your jobs.”