The opening of Maryland’s latest — and largest — casino proved a big draw Wednesday night for politicians who will have a big say in whether the state allows another in Prince George’s County.
Close to three dozen members of the Maryland General Assembly were spotted at an early-evening VIP reception and among the masses after the 10 p.m. public debut of Maryland Live!.
There were no doubt others lost on the massive gaming floor of the venue at Arundel Mills mall, which on opening night featured pulsating music and women in gaudy costumes, some of which doubled as hors d’oeuvres trays and wine holders (the costumes, that is).
Several of the attending lawmakers hailed from Anne Arundel County, the host jurisdiction of the $500 million facility.
But many others came from Baltimore, which has its own casino in the works; Prince George’s, where the delegation remains divided over whether to allow a large-scale facility at National Harbor; and most other regions of the state.
The Prince George’s contingent included Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. The 75-year-old chairman of the House Judiciary Committee was seen nibbling on finger food at edge of a dance floor where a DJ blasted Barry White’s “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything.”
Several members were also on hand from a work group launched by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) that is exploring whether Maryland should expand its gambling offerings beyond the five slots facilities voters authorized in 2008.
Those included Del. Frank S. Turner (D-Howard).
“Another day at the office,” Turner quipped to reporters shortly before a ribbon-cutting near the doors where thousands waited outside for their first chance to gamble. Turner added that he is keeping an open mind about another casino, an issue on which state voters would get the final word.
Others members and alternates spotted from the work group included Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Montgomery); Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore); Del. Robert A. Costa (R-Anne Arundel); Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery).
Costa was spotted later in the evening enjoying a beverage near the bar in the High Limits Tables area. He was among several representatives of the minority party in attendance.
Another well-known Republican was seen playing slots at a machine dubbed the “Hot Shot Progressive” — an ironic choice, given he is one of the more conservative members of the legislature. (He requested anonymity, given the game choice.)
Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold (R) spoke on behalf of the host jurisdiction at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D), who is gearing up to run for governor, was also among those mingling on the gaming floor.
O’Malley was not present. He chose instead to attend a dinner sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters.
Also noticeably absent were the two presiding officers of the General Assembly: House Speaker Michel E. Busch, a Democrat who resides in Anne Arundel County; and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), one of the legislature’s largest gambling proponents.
Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert), the House minority leader, was there, however.
“My brother and his wife from Pennsylvania wanted to come,” O’Donnell explained. “I was happy to accompany them here.”