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Maryland Politics
Posted at 04:20 PM ET, 02/14/2012

Prince George’s Council says proposed slots bill has little appeal


(Doug Kapustin - For The Washington Post)
The Prince George’s County Council is unanimously opposed to the proposed slots bill pending in the General Assembly that could open the door to a casino in the county.

Council chairman Andrea Harrison (D-Springdale) said the panel is expected to formalize its opposition by voting on a resolution on Tuesday.

“There has not been anyone on the council that supports the bill,” Harrison said, after informally polling her eight colleagues.

The bill, sought by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s) and in the House by Del. Barbara Frush (D-Prince George’s). It would allow a casino, featuring slot machines and Las Vegas-style table games, to be built in Prince George’s County if state and local voters approve.

Council member Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington), whose district is the likely venue for a casino either at Rosecroft Raceway or National Harbor, said he was concerned that the proposal would do little to cushion the impact of tens of thousands of bettors in cars descending on the area every day.

He said the measure also does not specify that a percentage of the take at the casino would return to the county in the form of local aid, something that has been included in other casino deals in the state. The measure has proposed using some casino proceeds to aid the county’s economic development fund, and to help foot the bill for a proposed regional hospital

“I cannot support the bill the way it is now,” Patterson said.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who opposed slots when he was a delegate, has been mum on the legislation. Last month, Baker said slots should not be linked to funds for the new hospital, whose cost is estimated to be at least $600 million.

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. An advisory opinion from Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said a local vote on gaming would be unconstitutional.

The bill also would repeal a prohibition that limits individuals or businesses from owning more than one Maryland casino.

That provision could benefit Penn National Gaming, the owner of Hollywood Casino Perryville, which was the first slots venue to open in Maryland. Rosecroft is also owned by Penn National.

In November, the Prince George’s Council narrowly agreed 5-4 to table a bill that would have banned slots in the county. Patterson, who had opposed slots when he was a delegate to the General Assembly, was among the five council members who voted to table the ban last fall. Harrison voted for the ban.

By  |  04:20 PM ET, 02/14/2012

 
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