Many veterans groups across Maryland say they are ready to rally their troops in support of the state's new gambling expansion question. The reason? Part of the bill would allow Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legions to have gaming machines for the first time.
At places like American Legion Post 217 in College Park, bingo has become a financial lifeline in the face of downturns in both the economy and its membership.
"It's life and death for some organizations," says the Post's Elnado Lindsey who is an Army veteran. "We used to give big donations. We can't do that anymore. Our economy and our money are bad. This would be greatly needed."
The bill passed by legislators and signed by Governor Martin O'Malley would let veterans groups buy five gaming machines. The exception would be in Montgomery County, where delegates did not want the gaming machines in their county. Voters would have to approve the gambling expansion in November, but estimates say veterans groups in Maryland could make $360,000 a year.
The new Maryland Gambling Commission would decide what type of gaming machine veterans groups would be allowed to purchase. And while they look like slot machines, they actually work more like lottery machines, since winners are pre-programmed on a roll of tickets inside them.
But the expansion of gambling in Maryland is not without its critics. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot tells FOX 5 expanding gambling takes money from those who are least able to afford losing it, saying, "Why the heck are we as Democrats, who normally protect the middle class, protect lower income classes? Why are we taking money from them through this expansion of gambling?"