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Maryland Politics
Posted at 12:03 PM ET, 12/12/2011

Slots an option to fund Prince George’s wish list, Baker says

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said Monday that he plans to ask lawmakers in Annapolis for a great deal of funding in the upcoming legislative session and that he remains open to the possibility of a slot-machine gambling site in his county to help cover the cost.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III in March. (By Mark Gail/The Washington Post)
“We’re keeping all our options open,” Baker (D), a former state delegate, said in interview. “I’ve learned from my days in Annapolis ... that you can’t come down here and ask for revenue if you’re not willing to accept the revenue stream they come up with.”

Baker was in Annapolis on Monday for a media briefing by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on the state’s recent economic development trip to India. Baker accompanied O’Malley on the mission.

Afterward, Baker said he will be making “a big ask” in the legislative session that starts next month that will include funding for a new state-of-the-art regional medical center in the county as well as significant dollars for school construction and repairs.

“We’re going to be turning to the state and saying, ‘We need your help,’ ” Baker said.

Baker said he anticipates that slots will be part of the discussion that follows with state lawmakers about how to pay for the county’s needs.

Penn National Gaming, owner of Rosecroft Raceway, is pushing a plan to make the facility the sixth slots site authorized in Maryland. Other options have also been talked about in recent months. Baker said that he is not limiting consideration of slots solely to Rosecroft.

The vast majority of Prince George’s lawmakers opposed hosting a slots venue in 2007, when the state launched its program. Since then, some legislators have begun to reconsider their positions based on the potential revenue a facility could generate for both the state and county.

Last month, the Prince George’s County Council kept the door open to slots by tabling a zoning bill that would have effectively banned the machines in the county. The council instead passed a measure urging that the introduction of slots in Prince George’s be tied to the wishes of voters there. Under current law, new gambling sites are subject to statewide ballot measures.

There are several other obstacles to adding another slots site in Maryland — most notably, opposition from operators of the other sites. The Cordish Cos., which is developing a casino at Arundel Mills mall, has made it clear to legislators that it strongly opposes the idea.

By  |  12:03 PM ET, 12/12/2011

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