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n style="font-size: small;">Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) would be "open to conversation" about legalizing Las Vegas-style table games in Maryland if voters return him to Annapolis, he said Thursday.

Ehrlich unsuccessfully lobbied the Democrat-led legislature to legalize slot machine gambling during his previous four years in office. The year he left, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) convinced lawmakers to let Maryland voters decide the issue. A ballot measure was approved in November 2008 authorizing 15,000 slot machines at five locations.

Since then, Maryland's effort to get its slots program up and running has seen repeated setbacks, while surrounding states are moving forward with table games. Two of Maryland's smaller planned slots venues -- in Cecil and Worcester counties -- could open as early as this fall, while efforts to open facilities in the other three locations are well behind schedule.

"We can't get slots straight," Ehrlich said, suggesting that the question of table games will not "be ripe" until that happens.

During the recently concluded legislative session, the Maryland Senate passed a bill that would have allowed table games at a single venue: Rosecroft Raceway, a financially troubled horse track in Prince George's County. O'Malley opposed that bill, saying the state should make more progress on slots first.

Ehrlich's comments were made to reporters after a guest lecture he gave to students at Towson University. Ehrlich has made regular appearances at a persuasion and media criticism class taught by Professor Richard Vatz for 17 years, Vatz told students.


During the lecture, Ehrlich had even harsher words for the state's efforts on slots in response to a student's question.

"All they're doing is screwing around with it," Ehrlich said. "It's made us look silly."

Ehrlich addressed a range of other topics during the lecture, including the effectiveness of negative advertising in political campaigns. He acknowledged "you're gonna see plenty" during his rematch against O'Malley.