It’s official: Maryland lawmakers will be called back to Annapolis next month to weigh an expanded gambling plan.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced the special session at a Friday morning news conference, flanked by the two top Democratic leaders of the General Assembly.
Lawmakers, in a session starting Aug. 9, will be asked to consider allowing a new Las Vegas-style casino in Prince George’s County and table games, such as black jack and roulette, at Maryland’s five other slots locations.
“It’s time we act, and it’s time we put this issue behind us,” said O’Malley, who cast the expansion as a way to create more jobs in Maryland.
If approved by the legislature, any major gambling expansion would also need the blessing of voters statewide. O’Malley and other proponents are pushing to resolve the issue in time for it to appear on this November’s ballot.
O’Malley said a Prince George’s casino would not move forward without approval of county voters as well as state voters.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) emphasized the importance of those provisions in his chamber, where the bill is expected to be a far more challenging sell than in the Senate.
“The ultimate decider of this issue is going to be the citizens of Maryland,” Busch said.
The most likely site for a Prince George’s casino is National Harbor, the 300-acre mini-city on the Potomac River, but other locations nearby, including Rosecroft Raceway, would also be allowed to bid.
The National Harbor plan has been championed by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) but vigorously opposed by the owner of Maryland Live!, Maryland’s largest casino, which opened last month in neighboring Anne Arundel County.
The Cordish Cos., which owns the casino, argues a Prince George’s facility would unfairly cut into its market in the Washington region.
Several key details of a bill were not disclosed at the news conference, including any tax relief that would be granted to other casino owners to compensate for additional competition in Prince George’s.
O’Malley said a bill will be made available shortly before the session starts.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he is hopeful the session can be concluded in two to three days.
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