A bill that could bring a casino to Prince George’s County was formally introduced in the Maryland Senate on Monday night, with the support of a majority of the chamber’s budget committee.
The backing of Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s), the legislation’s lead sponsor, and six of his colleagues on the Budget & Taxation Committee, ensures the bill has a path to the Senate floor.
Peters, who is chairman of the Prince George’s Senate delegation, told reporters he expects the budget panel will hold a hearing on the bill within two weeks.
In addition to authorizing a gambling venue in western Prince George’s, the bill would allow Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five previously authorized slots sites. Several other provisions affecting the state’s slots program are tucked into the bill.
Under existing law, any new gambling site in Maryland must be approved by voters statewide. Peters’s bill also requires a majority vote in the host county for a new casino to move forward.
Though Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) did not sign on as a co-sponsor, he supports Peters bill, greatly increasing its chances in the Senate.
Prospects in the House are far less certain. Peters reiterated Monday night that the position of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) will be crucial. Baker, a former delegate, has asked lawmakers from his county to “keep an open mind” but has not publicly said whether he will support the legislation.
“He just saw it today,” Peters told reporters, referring to the version of the bill that was introduced Monday night.
The bill has been in the works for weeks, with drafts circulating among several interested parties.
Baker has expressed concerns about the concept of linking slots proceeds to a promised new hospital in Prince George’s. Peters’s bill earmarks a portion of proceeds for that purpose.
Three of the bill’s co-sponsors are Montgomery County senators: Nancy J. King (D), Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D) and Roger Manno (D).
Other senators on board include: Richard F. Colburn (R-Dorchester), Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore) and James N. Robey (D-Howard).