Commission may weigh Md. gambling expansion

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) could soon create a commission to advise the legislature about a possible gambling expansion, an issue that factored into the collapse of Maryland’s 90-day session last month.


Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Those proposals could be the basis for a second special legislative session in July or August.

O’Malley and lawmakers are still trying to firm up plans for a first special session the week of May 14. That one would be devoted to resuming work on a revenue package that died on April 9, the final night of the 90-day session, along with a Senate-backed gambling bill.

Busch spoke to reporters after attending a breakfast meeting with the governor and several House leaders that focused largely on revenue issues.

Afterward, O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said there have been “some discussions” about a gambling commission but added that the governor’s “primary focus” is on the first session.

“The important thing is that we come back to address the budget situation,” Abbruzzese said.

More than $500 million in cuts to education and other planned spending will take effect July 1 if lawmakers do not return and pass a revenue package. The bill that died on April 9 included an income tax increase for those making $100,000 or more.

The Senate gambling bill that also died called for a statewide vote on allowing a casino in Prince George’s County and Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five existing slots sites. That bill sought to compensate existing casino owners for the new competition by allowing them to keep a larger share of slots proceeds.

Busch said the commission would take a closer look at how much revenue the casinos and the state should keep.

“It seems to me there was no data on how they came up with the splits,” Busch said of the gambling bill that passed the Senate. “We ought to know exactly what we’re doing.”

Busch said that O’Malley has talked about a commission that would include five members appointed by the governor and three apiece by the two presiding officers of the legislature.

Busch said he thinks the House and Senate are “fairly close” to coming to terms on the details of a revenue package for the first planned special session.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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