October 15, 2014

Board of Public Works approves more gaming machines and worries about Balto. Metro safety

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Slot machines by ragingwire

Photo by ragingwire

Photo above by ragingwire with Flickr Creative Commons License

By Alexis Webb

Alexis@MarylandReporter.com

The Board of Public Works approved a $200 million contract for gaming machines at the state’s two smallest casinos and also worried about safety on Baltimore’s metro system during its Wednesday morning meeting.

‘Slot Renewal’

The gaming machine contract sets the stage for the state to replace all state-owned machines with leased machines at Maryland’s Ocean Downs and Rocky Gap facilities. The Board of Public Works voted 2-1 to approve a contract that sets pricing with nine slots equipment vendors to lease and maintain several thousand video gaming terminals for the two casinos.

The contract specifies a maximum per-machine rate, not to exceed a total of $200 million for all the machines.

Due to a revision in state gaming law, as of March 31, most slot machines in the state will be owned and maintained by each casino, rather than by the state Lottery and Gaming Commission. The only exceptions are Ocean Downs near Ocean City in Worcester County and Rocky Gap in the mountains of Allegany County, where the state plans to switch to leased machines.

Comptroller Peter Franchot questioned the contract and later voted against it.

“I’m a little concerned as to why we are working with nine separate vendors instead of one… aren’t we trying to save the state money and not spread the money thin?” Franchot said.

CORRECTION 10/16/2014, 11 a.m. Stephen Martino, head of the Maryland Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, said they modeled the contract after the previous one. He also said the slots manufacturing market is very competitive.

“We have nine manufacturers to give our facilities the opportunity to pick and choose the machines they think will be best for generating the max amount of revenue compared to facilities around the state,” Martino said.

Treasurer Nancy Kopp said she shared many of his concerns but voted in favor of the contract.

Baltimore Metro System Safety

Concern for the safety of Maryland public transportation users also sparked conversation at the Board of Public Works.

A recent cell phone video gone viral of two teen males fighting a middle-aged man on a Baltimore subway train and trying to push him out of the moving car came up in discussion. While the man assaulted in the clip has not come forth to file a complaint, the scene left board members questioning the safety of Maryland metro systems.

The fight that actually happened in beginning of the summer, possibly July, began when the teen tried to hold the subway for a friend and the older man said something. Two men are seen fighting in the car and knocking into other passengers before another person joins the fight.

“We were just as disturbed as anyone else when we saw the video, and we are making ample strides to keep our subways safe…. we take this crime serious just like we take any crime serious on our Metro system,” MTA Chief of Police John E. Gavrilis said.

Gov. Martin O’Malley wanted to know MTA crime statistics.

“I know what makes people very anxious are the assaults and armed robbery …what’s going on with them?” O’Malley asked.

“The majority of our crime comes from robberies and larcenies…we have concentrated our time to solving these robberies because we feel the sooner we find that criminal the sooner we stop them from committing another act.”

“Robberies are down by what?” O’Malley questioned.

“Robberies are down by 11%,” said Gavrilis, who later corrected himself to say metro robberies in Baltimore are down by 34%.

“Our serious crime is down, we’ve had no homicides, no shootings, no rapes we have one stolen auto in our system.” Gavrilis added.

Baltimore has also seen a 33% decrease in overall metro system crime, and a 22% decrease in assaults on the metro system year-to-date.