The developer of National Harbor endorsed the plan Thursday, but the prospect of bringing a full-fledged casino to Prince George’s faces considerable hurdles, including mixed views among county lawmakers and staunch opposition from the owner of a planned casino in neighboring Anne Arundel County.
Baker, who opposed slots during a decade as a state delegate, said in an interview that his views have changed since becoming county executive 14 months ago and that — under the right conditions — he would welcome a facility “much like what you see in Las Vegas.”
“The economy around us has changed,” Baker said. “There are far fewer revenue options for the county or the state. . . . We’re going to do everything we can to get this bill passed.”
In addition to generating education funding for the state, Baker said, the casino could yield nearly $50 million a year in gaming and other tax revenue for the county, which could be spent on a variety of economic development, housing and community-based programs.
Gambling boosters have long argued that a Prince George’s casino could be Maryland’s most lucrative, drawing patrons from the District and Northern Virginia, where casino-style gaming remains illegal. The county was not among the five locations in a 2007 bill that launched Maryland’s slots program, however, because of near-unanimous opposition from Prince George’s lawmakers.
Although that opposition has softened, many elected leaders in Prince George’s say they remain concerned that gambling preys on the poor and will tarnish the county’s image — even as part of an upscale development.
“Should we make that our hallmark in Prince George’s County? I don’t think it is a great idea,” said Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s). “When people think of Prince George’s County, I don’t want the first thing they think of to be ‘that’s where we can play slots and gamble.’ ”
Legislation introduced in both chambers of the General Assembly in recent weeks would add a sixth gaming site, in Prince George’s, pending approval by state and county voters.
The bill also would allow table games, such as blackjack, craps and roulette, at all Maryland casinos and would increase the share of proceeds that private operators may keep.
Supporters, who include the powerful Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), say the bill would make Maryland more competitive with the surrounding states of Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.