The Washington Post

Md. House will ‘fix’ or ‘kill’ gaming bill, delegate says

National Harbor, a potential Maryland casino location. (Photo courtesy of Peter Fellows)

“If we can’t fix it, we’ll kill it,” Del. Frank S. Turner (D-Howard), who chairs a subcommittee with jurisdiction over gaming issues, told reporters Thursday. “It deserves at least an honest effort by our House.”

Turner and other leading members of the House Ways and Means Committee raised questions at a hearing Tuesday about whether the legislation is too generous to casino owners.

Besides authorizing a sixth Maryland gambling site in Prince George’s, the bill would allow Las Vegas-style table games at the state’s five existing and planned slots sites.

The bill contains several sweeteners for previously authorized gaming sites, including an increased take of slots revenue.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has been lobbying lawmakers to allow a “billion-dollar” casino at National Harbor, the mixed-use development on the banks of the Potomac River.

Baker was back in Annapolis on Thursday. His meetings included one with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who has largely stayed out of the gambling debate this year.

The Senate passed the gaming bill last month on an unexpectedly strong 35-to-11 vote.

House leaders have floated the idea of passing a different bill that does not include a new gambling site but authorizes table games at existing locations.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) told reporters Thursday that he considers that “not acceptable at all” — a position he has maintained for some time.

There was also some behind-the-scenes discussion Thursday of allowing table games, but not slot machines, at a Prince George’s location.

Asked about the prospects for a sixth site late in the day Thursday, Turner said: “There’s always a chance. We don’t want to close any doors. But the revenue package has got to be designed to help the state, not the operators. ... Everything’s on the table. We’re not taking anything off the table.”

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.



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