Council Takes Testimony On Off Track Betting Bill

The panel also listens to comments on a proposed Veterans Council.


Frederick, Md (KM) Public Testimony was taken Tuesday night by the Frederick County Council on a bill to allow satellite simulcast betting in areas zoned limited industrial. The measure is sponsored by Councilman Tony Chmelik, who says it would clarify what’s already in the county code which allows off track betting in Frederick County.

Testimony in favor of the legislation came from representatives of the agricultural community. Maurice Gladhill with the Great Frederick Fair said the state collects all unclaimed wagers that gamblers who have won left  behind, and that cash is distributed to fairs around Maryland, including the Great Frederick Fair. He says the money is used to support the training track facility at the Fair, as well as  premiums paid by exhibitors at the Fair. “These are not great sums. But the point here is the unclaimed wagers, I feel, are being put to good use across the state, and Frederick County is getting some of that money,” he said. “Anything that we can do to increase the activity with off-track betting can come back to benefit us in that way.”

Colby Hubble, President of the Frederick County Agricultural Society, testified in support. “I do believe that if people want to utilize gaming for entertainment, that we certainly would not want them crossing our county and state lines,” she said. “We would want to try to keep as much of that revenue here in Frederick County as we can.”

But there were opponents who testified. One was Patrick Shemp from Monrovia. “I hate to see the government get involved in anything that diverts money from people, their families,” he said.

And Steve McKay of Monrovia, said gambling brings with it a lot of social ills. “Clearly, we’ve had OTB {Off Track Betting} here in the county, right over at the Cracked Claw in Urbana. Some have said that was never a problem, and why we should we think a new OTB should be any different. However, we’ve also heard of the darker side of that establishment. I’ve heard of broken families and a suicide in the parking that. That’s an inherent part of gambling and it gets abused,” he said.

The Crack Claw had a satellite simulcast betting facility until it closed in 2011.

Chief Administrative Officer Ray Barnes, speaking for County Executive Jan Gardner, said there was one problem with the legislation. “Our concern is the bill, as currently written, would allow these facilities only as a  principle permitted use. Our position is that these facilities should be allowed as permitted uses with site plan approval,” he said.

Councilman Chmelik noted that the state heavily regulates these off track betting facilities, and there’s a number of steps that need to be taken, including public hearings, before one of these satellite simulcast betting centers can open up. He also said the Maryland Jockey Club prefers they be part of another business, such as “a high quality restaurant.” Chmelik also said there are no plans at this time for someone to come in and open up a satellite simulcast betting facilities.

He also says he will introduce amendments to this bill to also  allow off track betting facilities in general industrial and limited industrial zones.

In other action, the Council took testimony on legislation to set up a Veterans Advisory Council. The panel would evaluate, develop and promote new and existing services for veterans and their families. It would also work with county commissioners, boards  and staff regarding policies for veterans, and collaborate with the County Council and County Executive to develop and promote programs  and services for veterans.

A majority of those who spoke favored the bill, but felt that it was too exclusive in giving preferences for members on the Council to veterans who experienced combat. Jason Miller from Mount Airy said this would ignore sailors and airmen who provided support. “Having served over in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can tell you that the vast majority of the sailors that are in combat zones served on ships  that were the Persian Gulf,” he said. “They launched sorties which assisted in Iraqi Freedom, and some extent, they even flew bomber missions from an airbase in Qatar, where the Air Force launched the bombers to go over and knock out insurgents over in Afghanistan.”

Laura Goodpaster said she didn’t feel giving a preference to female veterans was necessary. “As a female associated with the Marine Corps as well as a Special Forces group, I don’t feel it necessary to have a preferential treatment for females,” she said.

They asked the Council to replace the works “combat” with “combat zone” to cover those who provided support.

Both bills are expected to undergo a future workshop by the Council.


By Kevin McManus