On September 17th, 2008, Montgomery County’s top elected official reluctantly supported a November referendum to legalize slot machines, changing his long standing criticism to the state-run gaming and taking a position at odds with the position of other county leaders. For at least the past 8 years, County Executive Isiah Leggett spoke against allowing slot machines in Montgomery County but his position has changed because of worsening state and local budget problems.
Leggett said that he was reluctantly persuaded by lack of other possible option. Montgomery has historically led in opposing slot machines and Leggett’s predecessor, Douglas M. Duncan, was a slots critic. Leggett first campaigned against the slot machines in 2002 as the chairman of the gubernatorial campaign of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. During the past year, Governor Martin O’Malley and legislators increased the sales, corporate income, tobacco, vehicle taxes and raised the taxes on high-income earners.
State analysts predicted a budget shortfall of $1 billion and expect that the slot machines, if approved could produce more than $500 million in state profits. In Montgomery County, Leggett faces a $250 million budget shortfall and plans to close down all but important government services for at least 2 days to trim expenses.