Internet gaming won’t be in Md. gambling mix

August 7, 2012

Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch speaks in front of Gov. Martin O'Malley at a news conference last year. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The possibility of legalizing online gaming — backed by the owners of Maryland Live!, the state’s largest casino — was briefly mentioned in a memo that Busch sent to his members last week in advance of a special legislative session that starts Thursday.

Kristin F. Jones, Busch’s chief of staff, on Tuesday downplayed the importance of the idea, which she said was discussed but never fleshed out.

“After numerous discussions, the House has decided not to include an Internet gaming component in any legislation it advances during the special session,” Jones said.

The primary focus of the session will be whether to allow a new casino in Prince George’s County and Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s existing slots site. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to release a draft bill as early as Tuesday.

Though Busch’s memo provided no details on Internet gaming, the topic sparked some media attention, because the issue has never been seriously debated before in Maryland.

Members of the Senate have been cool to the issue and O’Malley was noncommittal last week.

The Cordish Cos., the owner of Maryland Live!, suggested the concept in a list distributed to lawmakers of provisions it would like to see in a bill if one goes forward. Cordish, whose casino is located in Anne Arundel County, has strenuously opposed a Prince George’s casino, arguing it would unfairly cut into its market in the Washington region.

Under Cordish’s proposal, only licensed casinos in Maryland would be allowed to offer gaming over the Internet, creating a new stream of revenue that would partly compensate for the introduction of new competition in Prince George’s.

Only one state, Delaware, has legalized Internet gaming. Gambling companies, however, argue it should be part of the future of their business plans.

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